Learn how to connect with other professionals on a deeper level
Are you a natural-born people-person? Do you find it easy to connect with those around you and communicate clearly with them? If the answer to those two simple questions is yes, you might have a high level of interpersonal intelligence. This type of awareness is a real advantage, both in the workplace and further afield, so it's worth knowing about.
If you're in the dark when it comes to this particular theory, we've got you covered. In the following guide, we'll take a look at what interpersonal intelligence is, the respected psychological concept that underpins it, and how you can use it to boost your career.
Revealed: Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences
Sit down and open up your textbooks: it's time for class. Before we take a look at interpersonal intelligence specifically, it's worth understanding Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Now, you may well have heard of this concept before - many workplaces and education facilities use it to inform their activities and approaches.
Created with help from other researchers at Harvard University, the theory illustrates that there are many different types of intelligence. Initially, the team identified six types of intelligence. However, over the years this has been expanded to nine. It's worth noting that there's always the possibility that more will be added. These core types are as follows:
Verbal-linguistic intelligence. That is, how well your verbal skills are developed as well as how you interpret the meaning and rhythm of speech.
Logical-mathematical intelligence. As the name suggests, this type of intelligence is all about the ability to understand numerical patterns logically.
Spatial-visual intelligence. Can you visualise things well? This type of intelligence is all about being able to think in terms of pictures and images.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. Many people term this type of intelligence as “spatial awareness.” Put simply, it's about controlling how your body moves and making sure that you can move objects well - i.e. not dropping them!
- Musical intelligence. You don't have to be Taylor Swift to have musical intelligence - although she certainly has oodles of it. This is the ability to understand rhythm and create it for yourself.
- Intrapersonal intelligence. This one is all about being self-aware and understanding your own moods, values, beliefs, and motivations.
- Naturalistic intelligence. Next up, this type of intelligence is about being able to recognise animals, plants, and other things that are found in the great outdoors.
- Existential intelligence. Here's where things get a bit deep… this type of intelligence means the ability to deal with the difficult questions about human life, such as the big one: “what's the meaning of life?”
Interpersonal intelligence. Finally, it's the type we'll be looking at in this guide. While there are many different types of intelligences, this is the only one that focuses on other people. It's the ability to identify other people's mood and motivation and also know how to respond to them.
Now that you understand the basic theory of multiple intelligences, you can identify the areas in which you're lacking and seek to strengthen them. We all have varying levels when it comes to these abilities, but the good news is that you can improve them. As we'll discuss, enhancing your interpersonal intelligence can help your career progression.
Why is interpersonal intelligence important?
Regardless of the job that you have, chances are that you have to collaborate. No worker is an island, after all. You may have to work alongside your department, liaise with other departments, or be part of a small and tight team. Whatever the case, you'll need to communicate and understand the people around you so that you can get the best results.
That's where interpersonal intelligence slides neatly into the picture. Learning how to read those around you, understand where they're coming from, and communicate your needs to them is certain to be a major bonus. When you start to master this skill-set, you'll find that it's easier than ever to work with your team and pull towards shared goals.
It doesn't end there, either. Networking is the foundation of a successful career. In fact, research reveals that a whopping 85% of jobs are filled through networking or personal or professional connections. When you have a high level of interpersonal intelligence, it helps you to create meaningful connections with other workers.
Since you're working to make sure that you understand them and, crucially, empathise with them, you should find that the people you meet have an authentic connection with you. You might say that there are no downsides to becoming more interpersonally aware.
The skills you need for good interpersonal intelligence
Looking for ways to improve your interpersonal intelligence? Luckily, there are some skills that you can bolster to support this goal. Changing the way that you both respond to, and interact with, others may help you to up your intelligence levels. While the following is not a comprehensive list, it serves as a good starting point when working with other people.
How well do you communicate with other people? When you're working in a group environment, you need to hear others and also to be heard. The better you can get across your point of view, the clearer things will be. While some of us find communicating easy, others have to work a bit harder. Figure out which category you fall into and go from there.
Active listening means fully understanding - and taking in - what another person says to you. Consider how you act during everyday conversations. When the other person is speaking, what's going through your head? Are you waiting for your turn to jump in or are you trying to understand their point? If you're itching to start speaking yourself, you're not engaging in active listening. Take the time to acknowledge the words of others.
Observing social cues
More than half of all communication is nonverbal. That means that people communicate with more than the words that come out of their mouths. Everything from their facial expressions to how they're holding themselves is sending out a message. How much attention do you pay to these social cues? If you're ignoring them, you don't have much of a chance of understanding the other person. It's that simple. While it can be tricky to note these cues when you're out of practice, it's worth taking the time to get a handle on them.
Spoiler: your emotions can get in the way of your interpersonal relationships. If you're not in control of your emotions - and react before you have a chance to digest information - that's a real problem. Emotional regulation can be tough. It means recognising when something is an emotionally-led response and when something is a logical response.
Empathy and understanding
Empathy is likely the most important factor when it comes to interpersonal intelligence. Can you put yourself in another person's shoes? Can you understand what drives and motivates them? When you're trying to connect with others, you need to have these factors in mind at all times. The ability to empathise with others will also help you.
The skill of understanding others is much like a muscle - the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Whenever you're dealing with another person, make a habit out of trying to see things from their perspective. What are they thinking? What results do they want? Why is this so important to them? When you ask yourself those pertinent questions, you might find that the answers surprise you. Start applying this to your everyday interactions and see whether it makes a difference to how they go down.
Use your interpersonal intelligence to get ahead
Cultivating a strong sense of interpersonal intelligence can help you to get ahead in the workplace. Whether you're looking to become more efficient in your given role, want to go for that next promotion, or fancy finding opportunities outside of your company, this skill is your secret weapon. In this guide, we've taken a look at everything you need to know about this type of intelligence. Since you're in the know, you already have an advantage over the competition. Why not look into ways to strengthen this intelligence today?
Are you smart enough to take the next step on the career ladder? If you're ready to make a move, send over your CV for a completely free CV review to make sure you're on track for the job you deserve.