Social Intelligence vs. Emotional Intelligence: What’s the Difference?

If you have been reading my personal development blog, you know the importance of both social (SQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ) for your success in life. However, many people get them confused. They sound very similar and therefore, you may have trouble understanding how to improve and use both.

Think of it this way:

Emotional is more about now, the present, and emotions or feelings. Think of a mother with her baby. She knows how that baby is feeling. She knows if it is sad or mad. Or think of a shy, scared teenager at a party. You know that he’s scared and frightened to talk to others because you have the EQ to properly identify it. It’s about facial recognition.

Social intelligence is often more about the future. You are using the knowledge of the present to improve the future by finding the best pathway for you. Think of a court jester trying to make the king laugh so he doesn’t get beheaded. Or think of an office worker understanding that it’s best not to bring up bad news to his boss in a straightforward way or he will get fired.

Social intelligence is more about understanding the personalities and reactive behaviors of people to know how to best get along… so you get a good outcome and/or avoid bad outcomes.

Social intelligence evolved to help us survive. Survival and success at your career, for example, is more than just having the right credentials. You could be highly qualified for a job, but if you piss your interviewer off by offending him.. that’s a socially unintelligent and you probably won’t get the job. Nowadays, we won’t get executed from being socially intelligent, but we may lose jobs, friends, or opportunities.

Here is a modern example to explain it to you better:

Bob works as a stereotypical office worker. He is socially intelligent enough to understand that his boss gets mad at trivial bad news. He therefore, knows it is socially intelligent to phrase bad news in a way that starts off with good news so he doesn’t piss off his boss.

He also knows that if he tells his coworker Sally the bad news outright, Sally will mouth it out to Bob because she has a loud mouth and will tell his boss without thinking of the consequences. So Bob also uses his SQ to avoid telling Sally unless done in a positive way.

Bob uses EQ in conference meetings. Everything is going well at his Monday meeting, but all of a sudden, he notices facial expressions on Sally that show that she is feeling angry and aggravated. He adjusts and realizes that she is not okay with the proposed project but won’t say anything. Thanks to his EQ, Bob brings it up and asks Sally for her opinion, which she gives. This constructively moves the project in a direction that they both can agree on and is overall better off.

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