What is Interpersonal Intelligence with 11 tips to improve

Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence is the ability of human beings to interact and communicate with those around them. It is one of the eight multiple intelligences established by the American psychologist Howard Gardner in his theory. This classification breaks with the unitary concept of intelligence.

From that moment on, mathematical or academic success is no longer considered as the only intelligence and other forms of talent established in relation to a person’s feelings, with personal relationships, with sports and other contexts in which to be human.

Interpersonal intelligence is essential for intuiting how people in your environment are feeling or mood. It is an essential faculty for some professions, especially those that are exercised by the public, such as commercials. As well as for intimate or personal relationships.

In this article, you can delve deeper into the concept of interpersonal intelligence and you will discover some tips to improve it that will be very useful in your personal and professional life.

The concept of interpersonal intelligence

Howard Gardner, in his theory of multiple intelligences, develops eight concepts of understanding or thinking; linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial or visual intelligence, musical intelligence, kinesthetic-corporal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, interpersonal intelligence and naturalistic intelligence present in the human mind.

Interpersonal intelligence is one of the two modes of personal thinking that distinguishes the American psychologist.

Howard Gardner, in his book Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, defines interpersonal intelligence as “the ability of a person to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other people and, consequently, to work effectively with other people.”

Some professions require a very sharp and developed interpersonal intelligence to perform the tasks associated with these jobs. Some of these professions are commercials, teachers, doctors or clinical staff, political or other leaders, for example religious and actors. In all of them, you have to deal with a lot of different people.

According to Gardner himself, his definition of intelligence is closely related to the effect that the individual himself causes on others. From this importance given to the interrelationship between human beings, interpersonal understanding is born.

Interpersonal intelligence in the biological field

This mode of intelligence, as Howard Gardner explains in another book, Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice , the successful development of interpersonal intelligence is closely related to the activity that takes place within the frontal lobe of the brain.

This part of the cerebral cortex is responsible for executive functions, that is, those responsible for human behavior.

In fact, as the American psychologist also states in his book, damage to this area of ​​the brain can cause personality changes, some of them irreversible.

This damage can also result in some types of dementia or mental and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Pick’s disease, which directly affects the behavior and control that the person suffering from emotions.

The biological origin of interpersonal intelligence is essential to better understanding it.

Finally, Gardner speaks of two essential biological factors that substantially affect the development of interpersonal thinking and that differentiate humans from animals, although some are already flourishing in some mammals, such as primates.

One is the emotional attachment to the mother or the one who plays the role of mother. The other factor is the importance that man gives to social interaction, an element that prehistoric societies already used for work, such as hunting, required by a team and which is the origin of organizational needs and cohesion and group that own. the human beings.

Interpersonal Intelligence vs. Emotional intelligence

Gardner’s concept of interpersonal intelligence is very similar to that of emotional intelligence defined by psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman.

According to Howard Gardner, in Intelligence Reframed , the behaviors proposed by Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence correspond perfectly to his idea of ​​interpersonal intelligence and also to interpersonal intelligence, since these behaviors have to do with emotions themselves. individual, as with other people in their environment.

However, the main difference that Gardner points out is that Goleman neglects the academic field of intelligence to focus on other aspects such as values ​​and social policy.

11 tips to improve interpersonal intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence is directly related to good progress in social skills.

As well explained by Howard Gardner, in his theory of multiple intelligences, they do not occur independently, but generally manifest together and are present in all human beings, although it can be diminished in certain people by brain damage, as listed in the previous section.

Social skills are not only necessary for carrying out a large part of professional work, especially if they are given to the public, but you must know how to deal with them in order to perform well and behave appropriately in a group.

Good interpersonal intelligence can help you discover the desires or feelings of those around you, even when they try to hide it.

The advice below will help you improve your interpersonal intelligence to do your job better or simply relate correctly to the people around you.

1- Actively listen to others

Listening carefully to other people is the best way to learn about their concerns, desires and feelings.

According to authors Melvin L. Silberman and Freda Hansburg in the book People Smart: Developing Your Interpersonal Intelligence, understanding others has a great impact on the success of communication and the sender, as well as the influences he exerts. About your interlocutor.

Listen to discover many aspects that are not known by the other person. If you listen carefully to someone, you can prevent certain behaviors by getting ahead of them and acting consistently to surprise your interlocutor.

In addition, active listening is one of the fundamental tools for conflict resolution.

2- Behave with empathy

Active listening must be accompanied by empathy. Putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are interacting with will help you get to know better how you feel, what you need and why you behave in a specific way and not another.

3- Pay attention to non-verbal communication

In addition to spoken language, you should observe the other person’s gestures or body movements.

Non-verbal communication can convey feelings or a mood that your interlocutor is trying to hide.

For example, if he tells you he’s fine, but his face is serious and he looks away, it could be a clear sign that something isn’t right.

4- Express yourself clearly

In interpersonal intelligence, the emotions and needs of others are just as important as your own.

Expressing yourself clearly and concisely will make it easier for those around you to understand you.

Establishing what your needs and goals are will help other people understand who you are and what you want in life.

In this sense, it is very important to emphasize that, in order to improve interpersonal intelligence, one must not stop being oneself. According to Silberman and Hansburg, if things are not said and only suggested, this leads to disappointment and frustration.

Let’s take the example of a group project in which the leader does not clarify the tasks, he just provides some clues and each member interprets these directives in his own way, leading to lack of coordination and non-compliance with the established objectives. Clearly, in this situation, a conflict will be created between them.

6- Giving and receiving feedback

Giving feedback when talking to someone will make you understand that the person is listening intently and that you are interested in what they are saying.

Feedback should be consistent, concrete and try to be helpful.

You should also encourage feedback on what you say so you know what that person thinks and not make up your own ideas in your head.

It is important to give this feedback active listening beforehand and to give the other person time to organize their ideas and thoughts.

7- Learn to resolve conflicts

The ability to resolve conflicts is a sign that you have good interpersonal intelligence. In fact, those who work the hardest are exceptional moderators on this resolution.

In this section, you will learn three keys that will help to end conflicts or fights with a person or a group of people in an easy and concise way:

– Actively listen to the parties or potential parties to the conflict. Pay attention to what they say, it not only serves to resolve this tension when it has already occurred, but also to prevent it from occurring. Many of the fights or tensions between people occur due to lack of communication.

– Make things clear. Specifying your point of view early on can avoid many misunderstandings.

– Keep Calm. A conflict is usually a situation where tempers and tensions are running high. In order not to contribute to this atmosphere of worry and tension, the most important thing is that you remain calm.

9- Take time to socialize

There’s no better way to improve interpersonal intelligence than to interact with lots of people.

It’s important that you spend time with your family and friends, but also that you meet new people, even from another culture.

This will help you to open your mind, better control your emotions in relationships, and understand others much more clearly.

Activities to work on interpersonal intelligence

In addition to these tips, there are other activities that can help you improve your soft skills, such as joining a volunteer.

As Howard Gardner states in Intelligence in Seven Steps (1996), interpersonal intelligence must be exercised through cooperative games, participating in group projects and discussions, reading books and using materials from different cultures, or practicing theater and other role-playing games. . in Group.

Other activities that will help you progress in the field of interpersonal intelligence are volunteering for positions of responsibility at work or in other fields, as this will make you focus more on the people you are targeting.

Aspects that can be negative for interpersonal intelligence

There are brain damage and other elements that are detrimental to the proper development of social skills.

In addition to mental disorders that directly affect the frontal cortex, such as Pick’s disease, mentioned above, there are other diseases that can decrease interpersonal intelligence. Some of them are:


This disorder of neuronal origin is characterized, among other symptoms, by deficient social behavior. Autistic people often have difficulty following conversations, they do not know how to behave according to culturally established norms. They may also have communication problems. All this makes it difficult to establish friendly relations with other humans.

Anxiety or depression disorders

Anxiety or a state of depression can also make it difficult to use adequate interpersonal intelligence.

Depressed or anxious people have problems relating, in most cases due to the lack of interest caused by the same lack of appetite generated by these disorders.

Personality changes can also occur. Some types of depression may be associated with bipolar disorder.

In addition to diseases and health problems that affect the brain, there are substances that are harmful to interpersonal intelligence, such as alcohol and other types of drugs.

Alcohol damages the prefrontal area of ​​the cerebral cortex, which is directly responsible for behavior.

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