“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”Stephen Hawking
Although I agree that it can come in useful on certain occasions, if you were hoping for tips on reconnaissance or spying, you are going to be disappointed. I apologize. I am using “intelligence” here in the context of acquiring skills, habits, and knowledge that help you better understand yourself, and other people.
We frequently think of intelligent people in terms of academic achievement. People with academic intelligence are logical, and seek evidence based on the analysis of data. They remember theories, and formulas. They got good grades in school.
There are, however, other types of intelligence. Some people say there are eight types, others nine. Some believe there are 12 types. I want to focus on three particular types of intelligence that are necessary in order to effect change. They are: emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and existential intelligence.
I like the definition of emotional intelligence on the helpguide.org website it says that “emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.”
We are passionate about the things we want to change in the world. Passion and emotion go hand in hand. We feel the desire for change on a very personal level. The emotions of both our allies, and our rivals run deep. Emotions can lead to deeper ways of knowing. They can also inflame tensions.
Things you can do to develop your emotional intelligence include:
- Hone your listening skills – Avoid preconceptions. Encourage the speaker to be open and honest. Understand the speaker’s point of view and ideas, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Understand that all criticism is not an invitation to fight.
- Try to empathize. Don’t avoid difficult conversations. Examine your own biases.
- Be aware of the ways your emotions might be barriers to understanding complex situations. Take time to consider expressing clear, thoughtful responses rather than simply giving knee-jerk reactions.
Social intelligence is developed through experience. Unfortunately, we cannot anticipate every circumstance and event in life. We can’t fully cultivate social intelligence simply from educating ourselves. Sometimes our interpersonal interactions do not go well. Recognizing why those exchanges went poorly helps us learn from our mistakes.
Leading change requires diplomacy. Good diplomats have social intelligence. They show discretion and thoughtfulness in their interactions with other people. Tactful consideration for others builds trust, and trust is priceless.
Healthy personal relationships are at the core of every level of positive change. We do not walk the world alone. In the words of the late American radio personality Earl Nightingale, “Getting along well with other people is still the world’s most needed skill. With it…there is no limit to what person can do. We need people, we need the cooperation of others. There is very little we can do alone.”
Existential intelligence is all about bringing out the philosopher in you. It involves thinking deeply about the big picture. Pondering existential questions is often related to the desire to create social change. For example:
- Are there values that we all share?
- Are there universal human rights?
- What is your purpose in life?
Thinking about life’s big questions can lead to people evaluating their values, and making changes in their lives in an effort to take responsibility for their actions based on those values. People leave “successful” careers to work at making the world a better place. (See the post, “Narrowing the Gap Between Our Ideal and Our Real Values”). You may not spend countless hours contemplating existential questions, but whatever time you do spend will always be time well spent.