By Joni Lindquist

Social Intelligence is part of the Emotional Intelligence framework that deals with others’ emotions and building strong relationships with others to be effective at work. Since most of us don’t work in isolation, building your social intelligence skills is critical to advancing your career.

What can we do to build our social awareness?  Use the “ACE” model:

A = Awareness.   I see two categories of awareness.  The first is awareness and attention to others as individuals.  The second is attention to others as groups, as the culture of the organization.  For individuals, the definition of the word “attunement” better describes what we should do, which is “to reach toward.”  It’s tuning into the moods of others in the present moment.  What’s going on with him or her?  Are they frustrated, satisfied, engaged, cautious, scornful, supportive, etc.?

As for attention to groups, we should build our organizational awareness to perform better.  Every organization has different histories and have unwritten “rules” about how things really get done.  Who has power?  Who yields influence? How do decisions get made?  Who gets rewarded and for what? What are the values of the organization?  Behavior within one firm might be expected, while at another firm that same behavior will knock you down a peg.  Know what works within your firm.

C = Curiosity & Concern.  Curiosity about what is going on with others is a foundation of social intelligence.  It must be authentic.  When curious, you may find out others have different viewpoints that may improve a decision.  They may bring an entirely different perspective to the situation.  If they are not “on the boat” with you as the leader, it’s better to identify that.  Asking more questions from a natural base of curiosity will often lead to better discussion and decisions.   Plus, people feel that they are truly valued.  Caring about people and meeting them where they are in the moment is powerful leadership.  Think WIIFT – “What’s in it for them?” instead of WIFM – “What’s in it for me?” which is typically the lens we wear without consciously changing it to focus on others.

E = Empathy. Empathy differs from sympathy in that you “attune” – you reach toward and be present with someone else.  Sympathy is more about saying you’re sorry, yet keeping a distance.  For a good video, see Brenee Brown’s humorous take on empathy.

In his article, “The Focused Leader” in The Harvard Business Review, Daniel Goleman (EQ guru) identifies three components of empathy:  Cognitive, Emotional and Empathic.  He defines cognitive as the ability to understand another’s perspective, Emotional as the ability to feel what someone feels and Empathy as the ability to sense what another person needs from you.

This a deeper definition of empathy than we usually think about.  The last piece – being able to sense what another person needs from you – sets apart those of us who show strong empathy.  This skill can help build strong relationships with others.  Easy to say, much more difficult to sense and take the appropriate action.

If you want to develop better and more productive relationships with all the various personalities you work with, employ the ACE model.  Utilizing the ACE model on a consistent basis to improve your social intelligence not only leads to productive relationships, it will likely put you on a better path for career advancement!  To discuss your specific situation and challenges at work, schedule a meeting by clicking below, contact Joni Lindquist –, or call (913) 345-1881.