WHAT IS SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE?
We define social intelligence as the ability to successfully navigate social skills and social systems.
Social Skills -
People with highly developed social skills can read others, build rapport, and then persuade them to act or believe something desirable.
They come in various forms - as salespeople, negotiators, spies, politicians, therapists, and more.
These people have keen observation and listening abilities. They know when someone is lying, how to push people’s trigger buttons, and how to influence by circumventing logic.
We've highlighted some of them here.
Social Systems -
People who understand social systems can predict how groups or tribes of people behave.
In a work environment, they know all the relationships between employees and know who the key decision makers are. In a community setting, they know who likes who, who can’t stand who, and who every one trusts. In online social networks, they know who the key influencers are and focus their energies on influencing those individuals.
When a new rule, policy, or regulation is announced, they can predict how people will respond.
If they wanted to, they can use their predictive powers to manipulate the masses or build cult followings. They make excellent social engineers.
WHY IT’S NECESSARY
Social intelligence is one of the most universally important skills you can develop.
In this age of increasingly intelligent machines and automation, people should not compete with machines for work. Rather, they should develop skills that machines do not do well. They should position themselves as socially intelligent humans.
Machines are very efficient calculators and rule-followers. Give them a huge dataset and algorithms to follow, and they’ll beat any human at the task.
But they lack motivations, emotions, and an understanding of the human lived experience. They can’t understand what loneliness, depression, grief, or joy feels like. And they struggle to deal with nuanced situations where boundaries are not clearly defined.
People, however, can create art and products that move the masses.
They design the apps and gadgets that become everyone’s tools.
They provide empathy and feelings of connection necessary for healing emotional wounds.
They can win the presidency through powerful storytelling and emotional appeals.
When it comes to human decision-making, facts and logic are secondary.
Humans are social and relational creatures.
Strong relationships help boost our immune systems. Experiences of loneliness and social isolation are major sources of stress and health problems.
Research studies of elderly people found that those without adequate social interaction are twice as likely to die prematurely.
If loneliness can kill and relationships can heal, then our well-being depends on developing social intelligence. And like any skill, the earlier the better.
Most of us must interact with people in all areas of life - at home, at work, online, etc. Being able to deal with the diversity of personalities and relationship types helps people navigate even the most challenging scenarios.
People will use all sorts of mental shortcuts to assess us. They’ll notice our clothes, our posture, our speech, and then decide whether to like us. They’ll do this whether we like it or not, so it’s better that we have a hand in consciously controlling how we are perceived.
Yet, social intelligence is lacking.
Political polarization has led to entire groups of people not talking to each other or avoiding a growing list of taboo topics. Some intellectual spaces at liberal colleges have turned into safe spaces where university students are protesting controversial speakers. Outrage has replaced social dialogue.
Modern dating challenges in this age of connectivity has brought about significant anxiety among millenials. Many have expressed frustration with the online dating experience - the abundance of options has led to serial dating, FOMO, and decision paralysis. The art of conversation and virtues of patience have deteriorated while everyone has developed expertise in swiping at their apps.
Shifting gender dynamics in the developed world have added to the confusion. Traditional gender roles where men are expected to pay for meals or encouraged to express their sexual attraction can nowadays be labeled as “toxic masculinity” that’s not just offensive but morally reprehensible.
Extremist anti-feminist groups such as Men Going Their Own Way have grown to protest the emerging cultural environment where particular men feel silenced and ostracized.
Meanwhile, every industry seems infected with a sexual harassment epidemic - Wall Street, DC, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood to name a few.
Silicon Valley technologists and transhumanists believe machines are the silver bullet answer to many social problems.
Having a hard time meditating? There’s an app for that.
Frustrated by the broken school system? Well there’s a long list of “edtech” companies with missions of reimagining education.
Meanwhile, AI enthusiasts are building more advanced humanoids they hope will be able to develop social awareness and help take care of the elderly. But the dynamically complex human brain is not like a computer, and therefore cannot be taken apart and reconstructed as a computer program. Attempts to do so will need to reduce the complexity of the human agents that the machines are programmed to mimic.
These well-intentioned technological advances serve a useful purpose, but falsely believing technology is a panacea will lead to the hi-tech low-life dystopian worlds these innovators are trying to avoid in the first place.
Our mission is to dispel fallacies about human nature and in doing so, help people better navigate their social challenges and lead better lives. We promote social intelligence through any means necessary.