The final ability that people with social intelligence have — at least according to Daniel Goleman, who is widely considered the pre-eminent expert on the topic — is “influence,” defined, by Goleman, as the the ability to constructively shape “the outcome of an interaction, using tact and and self-control.” (See Social Intelligence, page 94.)
It’s an interesting concept, because so many people have only two modes for shaping outcomes: sitting passively and feeling helpless or using force (whether it’s by raising one’s voice, making threatening comments, or actually getting physical).
Neither is particularly useful. Being passive means you have to wait for the other person to give you what you want. Using force risks making the other person shut down entirely, resort to passive-aggressive tactics, even call 911.
Conversely, being able to “influence” people, Goleman writes, “combines self-control (modulating an aggressive impulse) with empathy (reading the other person to gauge what the least force necessary might be) and with social congition (recognizing the operative norms in a situation).
In other words, it takes assessing what’s going on and deciding what the best course of action is to get your desired result. It’s a combination of perceptiveness, strategic thinking, and tact.
That’s no small order, of course. So next up: Can social intelligence be taught? Can it be learned?