Social/Emotional Intelligence

Strengths of Heart

Social/Emotional intelligence is understanding feelings and using them to inform actions.

Although there is some disagreement about the exact terminology to use, social and emotional intelligence both refer to the ability to understand your own and others’ feelings and emotions and then to use this understanding to inform your decisions and actions. Socially/emotionally intelligent people solve interpersonal problems quickly by understanding what is upsetting others and being empathetic to these concerns. They tend to recognize when they've said something that made someone uncomfortable and know what makes others "tick.” Socially/emotionally intelligent people are able to thrive in many different relationships and settings because they quickly learn the social rules.

Observing Social/Emotional Intelligence

As a teacher, it’s important to recognize that social intelligence is different from just “getting along” with others or following rules. Put a different way: a child who acts out or doesn’t get along with others doesn’t necessarily have a challenge with social intelligence—a myriad of other challenges could be at play. That said, socially intelligent behaviors are also the ones that a teacher might prize in a peaceful classroom. Being socially intelligent could involve:

  • Finding solutions during conflicts with others
  • Demonstrating respect for the feelings of others
  • Adapting to different social situations

What the Research Says

Dr. Marc Brackett of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence talks with Character Lab about emotional intelligence.

Research shows that social/emotional intelligence is positively associated with functioning competently in society, being liked by others, having a stronger support system (friends and family), having healthy relationships, having better mental health, and problem-solving more effectively. By helping to improve people’s social relationships, social and emotional learning programs have been shown to enable participants to demonstrate greater enjoyment of and stronger performance in school and engage less in risky behavior (including drug use and violence).

Keep Exploring Social/Emotional Intelligence

  • Check out

    this piece in The Guardian about emotional health and happiness.

  • Explore

    this report from OECD on the skills for social progress.

  • Read

    this piece in The Boston Globe about the skills every kid should master.