The first key quality of the emotional intelligence (EI) framework is personal competence. The three characteristics of personal competence are self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation.

This article is on how you can acquire a high level of social competence.

Social competence

Your ability to empathise with others and your social skills make you a socially competent person. Empathy involves being attentive to emotional cues, listening well, and showing sensitivity and understanding to other people’s perspectives, needs and feelings.

Empathetic people also:

* develop others through mentoring;

* have a strong service orientation;

* respect and relate well to people from varied backgrounds; and

* accurately read power relationships and detect crucial social networks.

Ask yourself: Would you crack a joke at a funeral or hard-sell your products or services at a wedding? Not if you were a socially competent person. 

People with good social skills:

* win people over;

* listen well;

* handle difficult people and tense situations with diplomacy and tact;

* orchestrate win-win solutions;

* lead by example;

* recognise the need for change;

* build rapport;

* make and maintain personal friendships among work associates;

* spot and nurture opportunities for collaboration;

* work well in teams; and

* share credit.

To develop social competence means honing your ability to assess the feelings and emotions of others and being able to see things from their perspective. As you are not focused on serving your own interests, you will be able to think of win-win strategies to benefit both you and other people.

How can you develop your social skills?

Be compassionate

First, you have to learn to be compassionate. Your ability to feel compassion for not only your fellow human beings, but also for animals and the physical environment you live in, makes you human.

It is not always possible to solve all the world’s problems, but you can learn to empathise with others, feel compassion for their difficult situations and assist them in whatever way you can.

This story illustrates this point: A man was walking along a beach where hundreds of fish were washed ashore on the beach. Many were struggling and gasping for air and going through a slow process of death. 

In the distance, the man saw a small boy picking up some fish and tossing them into the sea. He went up to the boy and asked him what he was doing. The boy answered that he was throwing the live fish back into the sea.

The man said: “There are so many fish dying here. What difference does it make if you throw some of them back into the sea?” The boy held out to the man the struggling fish he was holding gently in his hand and said: “It matters to this one!” as he threw the fish into the sea.

When you learn to be more compassionate, you become less judgmental. You see people as individuals with their own unique needs which you can help them to fulfil.

Learn to listen well

You can also develop your social skills by learning to listen and hearing what other people are saying to you. For example, when you are engaged in a discussion at the office, try to establish what is important to the other party so that you see the issue from their perspective. Listen to what they say but also look for cues about what they don’t say.

Then, try to establish common ground by talking about shared goals, that is, an outcome that is acceptable to everyone.  Showing empathy by understanding how they feel about certain points of the discussion will help to build rapport.

When trust is established, you and the other party can work on finding a win-win solution. If you can do this with some success, you are well on the way to becoming an emotionally intelligent person.