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Social Smarts

Sarah Chana Radcliffe

In social interactions, most of us have some level of awareness of what works and what doesn’t. Experts call that “social intelligence.” What’s the secret formula of social intelligence?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

What is a “really nice” person? It is a person who is pleasant to others, a person who makes other people feel good. People who can do this are not only “nice,” they are also successful in many aspects of their personal and professional life. They have something called “social intelligence.” We’re all born with varying levels of ready-made social intelligence, although some of us are “naturals” on the social scene while many of us will do better once we learn a few tricks.

An almost fail-proof formula in social relationships is: generating good feelings in others helps maintain positive relationships; generating bad feelings hinders its development.

We know that it’s good to be friendly, complimentary, positive, kind, appreciative, attentive, and so on. We also know that it’s not good to be judgmental, gruff, negative, disrespectful, snobby, and glum.

Perhaps the best way to explore social skills is through the examination of common social dilemmas. Let’s look at the following ten questions to better understand the principles and application of social skills.


1. My sister-in-law gives lavish birthday gifts to each of my children on their birthday and I feel I must give her kids birthday gifts too. But I find this costly and time-consuming.  What should I do if she insists she wants to give, but assures me I needn’t give gifts in return?

What will engender positive feelings? Since your sister-in-law clearly enjoys giving beautiful gifts, allowing her to do what makes her happy will generate good feelings. In contrast, insisting that she refrain from fulfilling her own desire to give will generate bad feelings. So when she hands your kid a large, ornately wrapped present, tell your kid to accept it with a wide smile and later, a thank you note. Your genuine joy and happiness is really the best gift you can give her. There’s no need to offer equally expensive gifts in return, though a card and small gift on her children’s birthdays would be a nice gesture on your part.


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