Emotional Intelligence: Social and Interpersonal Relationships


Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

There is no 'i' in team.

Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.


Social awareness or Interpersonal relationships can also be known as people skills. In the world of emotional intelligence this looks like dependability, trust, team.

Talent in this realm of emotional intelligence shows up by 'just knowing'; turning outward and knowing how to identify the emotions in others. Developing a fine tuned sense of social awareness quickly translates into knowing that emotional expressions are consistent across cultures - facial expressions, body language, voice tone.


In today's workplace, the big word is EMPATHY. Your ability to understand the emotional state of another person or a group of people. The depth at which you understand your own emotions is critical to developing this ability to recognize emotions socially and also understand them. You don't have to agree with them. What's the difference?


Let's say that you get pissed off when someone cuts you off in traffic. And let's just say, for arguments sake, that I don't get pissed off. When you arrive to work your commute fiasco as you flustered...you're visibly irritated mumbling under your breath, dropping your things loudly around your desk, flopping your weight into your chair, and sharply moving papers about. These visual cues tune me in to the fact that something is up and my finely tuned social awareness also tells me you're pissed off. Because when I'm pissed off I do similar things (if not the same). So I approach your desk and you and gently say "Hey. Everything alright this morning?" You snap back "This idiot cut me off in traffic! I mean what the hell is wrong with people that they can't be considerate of others when driving. I've got to get to work too you know!" My response can go in 1 of 2 ways:

1. Sideways. "Whoa. It's just driving to work. You should probably relax a bit. I mean you got here okay and on time. What's the big deal?"

2. Right way. "I think a lot of us experience that and the feeling that comes after. I know that feeling and it sucks, especially first thing in the morning. How can I help?"


The following are a host of strategies to work on your social awareness and interpersonal relationships. Pick and choose ones that resonate with you. Try strategies for 3-7 days to get a feel for their effectiveness before moving on to a new one.


STRATEGY #1: Use Their Name.

Greeting people by their name is one of the most simplistic social awareness and connection strategy. We all love to hear our name because it's an essential part of our identity and using it makes us feel seen. Using a persons name also creates an instant connection and knowing between two people; this can help to break down barriers, create safety, establish instant rapport.

What if you struggle with remembering people's names?

1. As soon as you are introduced, repeat it back by using their name a few times in the first minute.

2. Ask for their last name and spelling.

3. Introduce them to someone else in the vicinity - repetition and practice are required for remembering.


STRATEGY #2: People Watch.

Go to your favourite coffee shop, park, bus/train station and grab a seat. Then just watch people. Pay attention to their body language, their facial expressions, their mannerisms. What non-verbal cues are they giving that indicate their mood. This skill set is one that is often overlooked and incredibly powerful in developing your interpersonal relationships.


STRATEGY #3: Have a Back Pocket Question(s).

I have about 5 back pocket questions at the ready and I use these when introductions, meeting someone new, building a relationship is happening. These questions are sure fire ways to get the other person to keep talking...which allows me to get to know them even more. My handful of questions steer clear of things like religion and politics as these are topics for when I've gotten to know someone much better. Having a set of back pocket questions sometimes feels like you're jumping all over the place; however when a conversation comes to dead air, a jolt is often what's needed.


STRATEGY #4: Pay Attention During Meetings, Write Later

When you're note taking during meetings, you're often looking down at your paper and therefore you miss 95% of what's actually happening in the conversation. Remember - body language, facial expressions account for a much larger portion of what people are feeling, than their words (which can be masked or faked). During meetings, keep your eyes up and save the note taking for later. If you need to capture important points, do so as quickly as possible and keep your notes short (just the facts ma'am).

Try to also include in your jot notes the visual cues that you're picking up - this will bring context to the facts that you wrote down. Was Janice smiling? Did she have her head tilted to the side and her lips pursed? Was she yawning? Arms folded? Fidgeting? Solid eye-contact?

After the meeting is over, review your notes and add important details afterward. Pay attention to what you're learning about the people you meet with often and follow up with any of those visual cues that need a demonstration of empathy.

"Hey Janice. I happened to notice during the meeting that you were yawning frequently. Everything alright?"


STRATEGY #5: The Art of Listening

We cannot hear this strategy enough. Or can we? No, we can't. Because it's just so valuable to be exceptional at listening. Listening requires deep focus and attention to detail - particularly paying attention to the non-verbal cues. If you were to close your eyes and listen what you interpret being said and why will be completely different than when you open your eyes and listen to the same thing. Totally give this a try watching a movie. Eyes closed first...then open.

Staying in the moment (not multi-tasking with note taking, or sending an email, or thinking of your grocery list) is also a demonstration of caring, connection, and empathy. YOU are important and so YOU have my undivided attention.


STRATEGY #6: Take Stock of Your 'Helping Hand'

You and I are part of the world and this means we need to contribute to the world. Social responsibility within our community is invaluable to growing our social awareness and interpersonal skills. Choose worthy causes that are important to you and take part. It does not have to be a grand gesture. Simple things that are impactful are just that - impactful.

1. Neighbourhood BBQ. Be the organizer and start with a quick flyer to announce the BBQ event. Those who want to be included will pick from the list of things to do and bring.

2. Food bank drive. Put a sign on your front lawn - FOOD COLLECTION HERE. DONATE BY FRIDAY! Then leave a bin at your front door for collection. Gather it up and drop it off at your local food bank.

3. Earth Day Clean Up. Gather up you and your friends (and their kids). Head to a local park with garbage bags and rubber gloves. Clean up and then play! What a great way to honour the earth.


STRATEGY #7: Be Mindful of the Culture

When you're new to a job or workplace, you have to take the time to fit into the social culture that already exists. People watching helps in this arena. So does asking a lot of questions about what you see. You want to be able to gather up as much of the tribal knowledge as possible. The workplace is a massive melting pot and being respectful of all people practices is important to demonstrating your social awareness and relationship expertise.

1. Listen and watch what other people are doing, and not doing.

2. Ask a lot of questions to gain clarity on the why, what and how.

3. Test for accuracy by asking more than one person.

4. Pick upon unspoken rules of engagement.



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