What Is Interpersonal Intelligence And How Can You Develop It?

by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
interpersonal intelligence, Children playing in a group
Mi Pham/Unsplash

Think back to your elementary school report cards. There was probably an item on there referring to your ability to “get along with others.” And whether you got an “O” for “outstanding,” an “N” for “needs improvement,” or any type of “S” (i.e. S+ or S-) for variations on “satisfactory,” this is probably something your parents were especially curious about. It’s one thing to observe how a child interacts with their siblings, but their behavior in the classroom might be a bit different. These comments on whether we “play well with others” was an early assessment of our interpersonal intelligence — or, our ability to understand and cooperate with other people. Here’s what you need to know about interpersonal intelligence, including what interpersonal intelligence tests measure, and what multiple intelligences tests can tell us about how our kids’ brains work.

What is interpersonal intelligence?

Basically, interpersonal intelligence is how well you interact, work, and deal with other people. Interpersonal intelligence is one of the distinct intelligences in Dr. Howard Gardner’s multiple-intelligences theory, which looks at intelligence as something made up of eight different categories (the other seven are linguistic, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, naturalist, intrapersonal, and spatial). Gardner defines interpersonal intelligence as denoting “a person’s capacity to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other people and, consequently, to work effectively with others.”

A big part of interpersonal intelligence is how you relate to and understand others. Having this trait and level of social comprehension allows you to become a better friend that people see as trustworthy and reliable. An interpersonal thinker usually comes in the form of a pal you can depend on and trust with your problems. This intelligence is strengthened the more they help and work with others on an emotional level.

Individuals who have this type of intelligence are usually very good at taking advantage of opportunities because of how well they can connect with others. The trust that others place in them, also makes them a solid and dutiful leader.

Although this intelligence isn’t something everyone is born with, it can be devoted if you work on it.

Are there any tests for it?

Interpersonal intelligence is typically something that is measured from the feedback you receive from teachers, managers, colleagues, and friends, rather than a traditional written test. There are a few online options out there, but interpersonal intelligence is usually better assessed from witnessing how a person interacts with other people in real-life situations.

Can you improve interpersonal intelligence?

You may not be able to pick up a book, read it, and then perfectly understand and then exhibit interpersonal intelligence, but there are ways to improve interpersonal intelligence. In an article for ThoughtCo., Melissa Kelly, M.Ed., a secondary school teacher, instructional designer, and the author of “The Everything New Teacher Book: A Survival Guide for the First Year and Beyond” shared a few strategies for teachers who are looking to improve their students’ interpersonal intelligence (though you don’t need to be a student or a child to try to develop your skills in these areas). These include:

  • Creating/participating in group projects, both large and small
  • Practicing interviewing other people
  • Trying your hand at teaching something to other people
  • Participating in community service activities
  • Organizing surveys or polls to help get a better idea of how and why people respond to different ideas
  • Practicing listening skills
  • Doing peer-to-peer mentoring
  • Focusing on problem-solving

Along the same lines, Martin Luenendonk provides some other tips for people looking to improve their interpersonal intelligence at Cleverism, including:

  • Focusing on time management (to make time to make effort relating with others)
  • Setting quantifiable goals (like meeting new people)
  • Joining a group or group activity (like choirs, book clubs, your local historical society, etc)
  • Taking a leadership role at work or in a group
  • Striking up a conversation with a stranger
  • Reading more books
  • Observing how other people interact with each other

What are some examples?

People with interpersonal intelligence are good at relating to other people. Here are a few specific traits of people with interpersonal intelligence, drawing on articles on ThoughtCo., VeryWell Mind, and Cleverism:

  • Communicating well verbally
  • Skilled at nonverbal communication
  • Seeing situations from different perspectives
  • Creating positive relationships with others
  • Resolving conflicts in group settings
  • Skilled at managing relationships
  • Being sensitive to other people’s feelings, moods, motivations, and temperaments
  • Skilled at negotiation
  • Having the ability to understand the intentions, motivations, and desires of other people
  • Being concerned with the greater good
  • Being highly empathetic
  • Confidence
  • Establishing rapport with other people quickly and easily
  • Being influential and having others gravitate towards the person

What careers are ideal for people with interpersonal intelligence?

Because people with this type of intelligence interact so well with others, they’re fantastic in jobs that require you to consider other people’s perspectives. With that said, occupations that fit the bill include:

  • Administrator
  • Manager
  • Educator
  • Judge
  • Arbitrator
  • Sociologist
  • Counselor
  • Psychologist
  • Nurse
  • Public relations professional
  • Travel agent
  • Social director
  • Diplomat
  • Salesperson

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