Jessica Leigh Lyons

Are you the office social butterfly? Do you have folks coming in and out of your office all day? 

Do you sense that people feel encouraged to move forward from challenging workplace situations after they chat with you? 

If any of these ring true, you most likely have a high degree of social intelligence — and it’s having a big impact on your workplace.

Here’s the rub: We live in a society that frequently values productivity and efficiency over relationship and communication. Yet, social intelligence can have dramatic, though indirect effects at work. If you’re not tracking it, then you’re throwing opportunity out the window. 

Social Intelligence (born from Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences), also labeled as interpersonal intelligence, means that you have a strong ability to create belonging and empathy in social situations. It’s different than emotional intelligence (widely popularized by Dan Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence). Emotional intelligence — based on Gardner’s intrapersonal intelligence — has to do with self-awareness and self-regulation.

Social intelligence, according to Karl Brecht, is a conglomeration of five distinct skills: situational awareness, presence, authenticity, clarity, and empathy. 

Here are 4 ways that you might be demonstrating your social intelligence in the workplace: 

1) You put together social events (i.e. office happy hour), and folks show up with enthusiasm.

Consider this:

People want to be around you and they feel comfortable. Relationships and effective communication are key to moving work forward and build trust for moments of difficulty that inevitably arise while we’re working together. Think about the types of activities that might promote team building. 

2) People constantly stop by your office to ask for your advice.

Consider this: 

You’ll have unique insight into how folks function, and the best language to use to motivate and inspire folks. You probably have language for emails and in-person meetings that will help colleagues hear and understand one another.

3) You sit in top level meetings and get clear on the needed outcomes for projects. Everyone leaves feeling like the work is moving forward. 

Consider this: 

You’re able to make people feel comfortable together and to get to the heart of the matter  on objectives where all parties feel heard, understood, and have clarity on the shared vision moving forward. Most likely, you also use language suitable for different personality types to understand exactly what to do from those meetings. 

4) Your team loves you AND they move massive amounts of work.

Consider this: 

You are able to note and develop each individual’s strengths and leverage those by making sure expectations are clear and communication has clear lines back and forth.

How to Leverage Social Intelligence

Social (and emotional) intelligence don’t always have trackable and tangible data or results. These intelligences have indirect but very consequential impact on workplace culture and outcomes, so you’re going to want to do your due diligence of tracking your impact (and your time and energy!). 

Start collecting a folder or document where you are tracking these interactions and take note of the impact, even if it’s just a mood elevator for yourself or someone else. Be bold and ask your colleague what they are getting from making a pit stop in your office. Social intelligence matters and it’s woven into the fabric of organizational culture. WHen you have highly socially intelligent folks in an organization, they promote a nourishing workplace. IT’s a place where creativity and innovation can  take place, in a world that is rapidly changing. Your skillset is adding to the possibility and the power of this organization. Don’t let it get swept under the rug.


Jessica Leigh Lyons is a life coach residing in Minneapolis and all around personal development obsessed. When she’s not facilitating groups or working with clients one-on-one, she can be found running around Minneapolis parks, enjoying chai at Spy House, or planning her next road trip in the great US outdoors.