One might ask why social intelligence matters these days. After all, many of us spend a good portion of our work time (and, increasingly, our social time) dealing with people via computers.
And a lot of the communicating that we do via computers is blunt, brusque, and badly written.
“What u shake?” a writer friend wrote to me via Facebook the other day, in response to my status message that said, “Susan Davis wants to shake things up a bit.”
In truth, I was having a temporary mid-life crisis, fueled by the fact that I had gotten in touch with an old friend (via Facebook) who, I discovered, was touring the world with an avante garde rock band, screaming his heart out — often in his underwear — in front of thousands of adoring fans.
By contrast, my life suddenly felt a wee bit pedestrian. One might even say, “boring.”
But what struck me when my writer friend wrote to me is that a) I had posted my need to shake things up on Facebook rather than talking out my sadness with a friend.; and b) she had written in code, even though she’s capable of putting together a very elegant sentence.
Make no mistake — I support abbreviated text messages and email communications. I love Facebook, because it allows me to mix up friends from all different parts of my life in one place, which makes my far-flung life feel a little less disjointed. But our “exchange” reminded me that while technology promises to pull our worlds together, it also makes it easier and easier to be a little less socially aware, a little less socially careful, and that can drive us apart.
That’s why social intelligence matters. Almost all of us — even those of us who are self employed — have to work with other people. And work relationships — like all relationships — can be complicated. Being able to understand what’s going on — and respond skillfully — means you’ll be a better team player, a better negotiator and a better manager. And those are all skills, ironically, that are becoming increasingly important.