Daniel Goleman has summarised the notion of ‘social intelligence’ as an overlap of social awareness and social facility. 

‘Social awareness’ refers to a spectrum that runs from instantaneously sensing another’s inner state, to understanding their feelings and thoughts, to ‘getting’ complicated social situations.

This includes primal empathy (feeling with others and sensing non-verbal emotional signals), attunement (listening with full receptivity and attuning to a person), empathic accuracy (understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions), and social cognition (knowing how the social world works).

‘Social facility’ involves wondering how another person might be feeling, thinking, or intending.

Social facility builds on social awareness to allow smooth effective interactions.

It includes synchrony (interacting smoothly at a non-verbal level), self-presentation (presenting ourselves effectively), influence (shaping the outcome of social interactions), and concern (caring about others’ needs and acting accordingly) [1].

Goleman’s concept of social intelligence builds on the formulations of emotional intelligence.

As she thought about things after her meeting with Steve, Beth’s social awareness and facility grew.

She was able to appreciate the pressures that Steve had himself been under and to see things from his point of view.

This enabled her to develop a more realistic view of how the department was working and her place within it.

It granted her a greater sense of self control, agency, and initiative.

Her ability to present herself more assertively enabled her to influence her position in the department, albeit in a relatively modest way.

A small step objectively, but a giant leap for her.

As lawyers we will spend much of our working lives in group settings, in offices, chambers, courtrooms, meetings, mediations, committees, and even in our families.

Group dynamics are all around.

An ability to ‘press the pause button’ and step back and wonder what may really be going on around us and under the surface of appearances can help us to understand more clearly.

And it starts with curiosity.

Groups can be complex, confusing and chaotic.

However, there are ways of simplifying, clarifying and regaining a sense of control.

Sometimes though, however self- and other-aware we are, however well organised, life throws stuff at us that is overwhelming … 




[1] Goleman, D. (2006) Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. London: Hutchinson (p. 84).


(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)

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