Social Intelligence – Should you go with your instincts?

Social Intelligence - Should you go with your instincts?

We all experience situations where we make decisions based on our instincts or gut feel, and often, this intuitive approach works well for us. The feeling that something is not quite right about a deal. Or that niggle that tells us not to trust what someone is telling us.

Introducing social intelligence

The man who brought us emotional intelligence, Daniel Goleman, also wrote about social intelligence. It’s not about learning to avoid Facebook when you’ve had a glass of wine, but rather it looks at how physiology can influence our feelings, along with the role that other people play in determining our emotional reactions. In a nutshell, social intelligence is about how people can learn to control how they interact and emotionally connect with others.

We are designed to conform

We have evolved to be able to pick up emotional signals from others almost instantly. This is what our gut feel is. Microexpressions that give away what the other person is thinking then subconsciously enable us to make decisions about them and how they feel.  

And as we are all built to connect with others, those emotions are catching, just like a cold! We can find ourselves empathetically aligning our expressions and responses with theirs, which fools our brains into experiencing the same emotions – known as ’emotional contagion’.

But what about when it comes to interviews?

Can your gut be a good judge of whether you have found ‘the’ candidate for your role? 

We’d say no. This is where social intelligence needs to be applied.

Social intelligence helps us to override these automatic responses so that we can make less biased judgements and, in turn, make balanced decisions.

Let’s say there’s an interview panel of four. It’s clear from their mood and expressions that the first three really like the person. The fourth isn’t so sure. But emotional contagion may well come into play. 

They will have picked up signals and unconscious bias from the others. And they may be swayed by social factors such as the seniority of other panel members, as emotions flow especially strongly from those perceived as more socially dominant. There’s a good chance number four will go along with the majority.

Applying social intelligence reduces unconscious influences

Applying social intelligence to interviews helps give each qualified candidate a fair chance. Here are some tips you can use to improve interview experiences:- 

  • Give the candidate your full attention. Remove distractions such as your phone or email notifications
  • Maintain eye contact. If interviewing remotely, close down the window with your image and line up the camera with your eyes
  • Demonstrate active listening such as nodding, leaning forward, and asking questions
  • If the interview is via a panel, collect feedback from each person individually
  • Screen the panel’s comments for any unintentional bias
  • Practice diversity when choosing the interview panel
  • Use pre-interview assessments that measure job-related abilities
  • Use cognitive measurement techniques to understand the candidate’s problem solving and reasoning abilities

Bring social intelligence to interviews, and you can make a conscious evaluation of a candidate’s skills, abilities and background. The result will be an expanded talent pool and a more diverse workforce.

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