Partner School Stories

The Importance of Social Intelligence

By Joey Pagano

Photo by Sebastian Muller on Unsplash

Being socially intelligent doesn’t mean you’re atop your class or get into the best college. Instead, it means that you have a knack for understanding and interacting with others.

Working with others and asking for help are challenging for all of us. Both activities require us to be demanding and patient. And, considering they’re opposites, that’s difficult to accomplish simultaneously.

People are uniquely complex; each person is different — and continually changes throughout the course of a day, week, month, year and lifetime. But I’ve learned to work through the challenges that come when interacting with people and disagreeing; whether that’s by respectful debate, talking through the issue, compromising, or collectively deciding what’s best for the group.

In order for anything to be successful, whether it’s a relationship or a project, people must be on the same page. Experience has guided me to realize groups are most successful when their members connect with one another and communicate the right way. They know when to talk, when to listen, what to say, and how to respond to what their teammates are telling them.

Over time, I have become better at those skills — especially truly listening. I think we all struggle convincing ourselves to listen to what people have to say, but often don’t want to acknowledge these difficulties. As I begin to work with more and more people, I have deliberately forced myself to listen to others, specifically my family. That’s because without help and advice from others I couldn’t accomplish anything.

But there’s a right and wrong way to ask for help. Shouting demands at others and expecting them to do as you say will never work. When we are demanding, others don’t want to help us, because it seems like we won’t appreciate their help. And, in the end, that approach will leave you with nobody.

I have found a better approach to be asking a yes-or-no question while making it clear that you need help. Sure, there’s always a chance we’ll ask for help and somebody will refuse, but then we just need to ask another person.

Most of the time, I’m with someone I know and who is available for assistance. But every so often, I’m in a situation where I need to ask a stranger for help. This can feel stressful for me.

For instance, when I’m at a Syracuse University basketball game and drop something and my friends keep walking without realizing it, instead of calling them back through the crowd, I need to quickly ask someone to pick it up. The next question becomes, “Who do I ask?” When I make that decision, I’m hit with a million thoughts simultaneously, but don’t have time to consider every thought. So I follow my instincts and trust my ability to “read” others. I simply act.

The good news about this? Almost every time I ask someone for help, they help, and everybody moves on with their day.

On a close relationship level, I have people who help me on a daily basis. Connecting with the people around you on a personal level — and in ways that go beyond a specific environment — makes it easier to get through the day. I deeply appreciate these relationships — and always work to express my gratitude to these people who are so important.

Close relationships make asking for help difficult. My family helps me whenever I need them, but I constantly need something from them, so asking them is more complicated — not harder — than asking a stranger.

Of course, I care about them and I care about what they’re doing more than strangers. I don’t ever want to disturb them from anything they’re doing — even if they’re just relaxing. With that said, I need help and can’t worry about that. I just have to be unselfish and thoughtful while being confident and eager when I need to ask for help.

Overall, I just keep the golden rule in mind at all times. I want to avoid treating anybody like dirt, especially when I ask them for a favor, so I just ask everyone for help with love.

Joey Pagano
Student, Syracuse University

Building the Other People Mindset and remembering and emphasizing its importance is what I aim for day after day. As I continue to pursue a career in journalism and attend the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, I aim to show people that buying into The Positivity Project doesn’t mean you have to be happy and positive all the time, but instead means we have to work together more and build positive relationships. You can also find Joey on Twitter @WheelchairQB_ and at his blog