An article on Social Intelligence – Observing Nonverbal Behavior and Understanding Emotions – by Dr. Sandeep Atre

It is a cliché to say that ‘we humans are social animals’, and yet you bet that there can never be a statement more important than this one for deriving maximum happiness, success and significance out of one’s life.

Yes! It is one thing to say it ad nauseam and another to understand the essence of it and to stay mindful of it in one’s personal and professional arena.The ability to do so is at the heart of the skill called ‘Social Intelligence’. And there are clear ways to develop it…

1. Keep track of how you are feeling:

Awareness is an integral part of social intelligence*. Only those people can be socially intelligent who are also emotionally aware. Yes! It all starts with ‘you’. A good way to start is by being awareof your own physiological cues of your emotional state like heartbeat, respiration, perspiration etc. It will help you gauge your internal dynamicsand will help you offset reactions and manage impulse.

2. Approach interpersonal interactions with receptiveness:

Whenever you have an opportunity for interpersonal interactions – a meeting, a discussion, a one-on-one, a conversation – try to get into it without preconceived notions. People are not events, they are processes. And it is only our mind’s typecasting that stops us from looking at them anew. So be open to be surprised (and shocked). It will help you become better.

3. Make an effort to put yourself in other person’s shoes:

While dealing with someone, try to actively imagine other person’s intervening aspects like situations, constraints, preferences, complexes, priorities or aspirations. And do it so that you can know where he or she is coming from and not to conclude how he or she is. Incidentally,when you remain truly engaged in a conversation, it helps the mirror neurons in your brain to strike attunement.This empathy makes the all-important difference**

4. Read invisible interconnectionsin a social apparatus:

Some people call it politics and some others name it diplomacy, but the fact remains that every place, organization, institution, event or occasion has an invisible hierarchy and power-dynamics to it. Everyone is connected to everyone else in a unique way. It is important to understand these subtle interconnections at play. This helps in managing your responses wisely.

5. Learn to interpret people’s nonverbal behavior:

The real connections can only be made with people if you understand how they are feeling emotionally. Yes! The thoughts are a person’s intellectual pursuits but emotions are deep representation of a person’s real self. Emotions call shots in most situations. And the fact is that nonverbal behavior – gestures, postures and expressions – is the most trustworthy representation of one’s emotions. Thus, to develop social intelligence, it is crucial to learn the scientific skill of interpreting nonverbal behavior.


*Researchers Goleman, Boyatzis& McKee found in their study of leading organizations of USA that the leaders who had little awareness of their emotions showed inability to handle relationships.

**A research in USA found that physicians who don’t listen get sued more. It also found that the average time needed for a doctor to be successfully empathetic is just three minutes.


Dr. Sandeep Atre (
Founder Director, Socialigence (
Also the author of books “Understanding Emotions Logically” and “Observing Nonverbal Behavior”