Weekly Slides

Week 18 - Social Intelligence

By Jeff Bryan

When I get ready to talk to people, I spend two-thirds of the time thinking about what they want to hear and one-third thinking about what I want to say.

-Abraham Lincoln

For an overview of each weekly slide presentation, please skip below to your specific grade level.
  • To see the 1-page Social Intelligence Character Card and share it with your students’ families, click here.
  • For the P2 Reflection Journals, used by all elementary students at the end of the week, click here.

Social intelligence means that you are aware of other people’s thoughts and feelings. You understand why they do things. It refers to a person’s ability to understand and manage interpersonal relationships — and is distinct from a person’s IQ or “book smarts.” It includes an individual’s ability to understand, and act on, the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of other people. This type of intelligence can take place “in the moment” of face-to-face conversations but also appears during times of deliberate thinking. It involves emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

Examples of social intelligence include knowing when to talk or listen, what to say, and what to do. Timing is a big part of social intelligence. For example, someone who is imperceptive may tell a funny joke – but at the wrong time, or not show enough interest when meeting someone new.

This week’s example is President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln had one humanity’s most difficult leadership challenges: civil war. To lead disparate groups in the North — with the ultimate goal of reuniting and reconciling North and South — through such a tumultuous period took tremendous social intelligence. This intelligence included managing his own emotions (as described by Mike Erwin and Ray Kethledge in Lead Yourself First), telling funny stories to lighten people’s mood (as in his Ethan Allen story), or befriending those with whom he disagreed. As Lincoln himself explained:

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and a true maxim, that a ‘drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.’ So with men, if you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great high road to his reason, and which, when once gained, you will find by little trouble in convincing his judgment of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause really be a just one.

So, why does social intelligence matter?

Social intelligence helps individuals build relationships – and is important to numerous aspects of a person’s life. It allows an individual to form friendships and alliances. And, it assists a person against being taken advantage of. People with social intelligence can “read” other people’s faces and know what motivates them. Social intelligence builds over time and as a person ages. In this sense, it is similar to the character strength of perspective.

On a group level, social intelligence is what allows us to function as humans. We are social beings and rely on each other’s cooperation. By understanding ourselves and other people, we can find ways to collaborate for mutual benefit. Strong leaders often possess social intelligence in abundance. In order to motivate people, leaders must form relationships and inspire others to want to do what needs to be done.

And, as a reminder, you can find all of our weekly slide presentations on our website’s Resources page here. This page is the place that we recommend you go to access all of the resources — not via Google Drive folders.

To find your grade level’s presentation, you can simply type the word “social intelligence” into the Resource Title search bar or sort by Character Strength and select social intelligence. Each of those options will provide you with 10 slide presentations and one 1-page character card. For a simple overview of the Resources page, with pictures and videos, click here.

Jeff Bryan
CEO and Co-Founder of The Positivity Project

Jeff Bryan is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Positivity Project. In this role, he leads the organization to support educators to empower their students to build positive relationships and become their best selves.