7 Interpersonal Intelligence Examples and Why It Matters

Interpersonal intelligence enables you to communicate effectively, navigate social situations, and deeply empathize with people in your life.

7 Interpersonal Intelligence Examples and Why It Matters main image

If you are a naturally good communicator with highly developed empathy who experiences no difficulties in social settings, you’re likely gifted with high interpersonal intelligence.

But what exactly is the definition of interpersonal intelligence? How do you recognize it in yourself and others, and why is it important? In this article, we will explore all these questions and more, so let’s dive right in!

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What Is the Meaning of Interpersonal Intelligence?

Interpersonal intelligence, otherwise known as people quotient (PQ), is one of Gardner’s nine intelligences and refers to the ability to connect with others and communicate effectively.

Essentially, people with high levels of interpersonal intelligence are eager to meet new people, quickly establishing rapport even with strangers. Social situations are right up their alley—they navigate them skillfully, picking up on verbal and non-verbal cues and communicating their feelings with ease.

Thanks to their developed empathy and excellent understanding of other people’s perspectives, they are quick to bond and make fantastic friends. As a rule, they are acutely aware of other people’s emotional needs and know how to cater to them.

Since they are so good at communication, people with high interpersonal intelligence seek out other people, preferring to be with friends and family rather than by themselves.

As a result, they are often extroverted, though this is not a hard rule. Introverts, who usually excel at intrapersonal intelligence, can also gain high interpersonal intelligence by observing their friends, family members, and co-workers.

7 Characteristics & Skills of People With High Interpersonal Intelligence

So, how exactly can you determine whether you have high interpersonal intelligence? It’s simple—just examine the interpersonal intelligence characteristics listed below.

You might recognize yourself or someone you know, so let’s get into it.

#1. High-Level Empathy

People holding hands as interpersonal intelligence

People holding hands as interpersonal intelligence

Empathy is the number one tool for connecting with people, so it’s no wonder individuals with high interpersonal intelligence possess it. They usually don’t have to train it either—empathizing with others simply comes naturally to them.

Generally speaking, interpersonal intelligence allows you to put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand their perspectives. As a result, you’ll gain insight into their feelings and needs and quickly grasp how to bond with them.

#2. Good Conflict Management Skills

Unsurprisingly, developed empathy makes people with high interpersonal intelligence exceptionally good at managing conflict.

As excellent listeners and communicators, they can understand both sides and approach the issue with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. In a way, they create a safe space where all grievances can be aired.

As a result, neither of the parties feels their perspective is being invalidated. That, in turn, makes them more likely to remain open-minded and consider the opposing viewpoint, ultimately leading to successful conflict resolution.

#3. Developed Communication Skills

Communication doesn’t involve simply talking to another person. In fact, it’s a complex set of skills that include verbal and non-verbal exchanges, active listening, and accurate and empathetic expression of feelings.

Considering how complex communication is, it certainly doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But that’s not the case with people with high interpersonal intelligence—they are particularly attuned to others, both in their non-verbal language and their actual words.

Not just that, but they also have an excellent grasp of their own feelings, an understanding of how they work, and how to effectively express them to others.

#4. Ability to Understand Others & Sympathize

A person holding an elderly person hands

A person holding an elderly person hands

While everyone else wants to be understood, people with high interpersonal intelligence want to understand others. They enjoy spending time with, as well as talking to, people, slowly piecing together the puzzle of who they are and what makes them tick.

Don’t worry, though—none of that is done for some nefarious reason. On the contrary, people with high interpersonal intelligence do it out of genuine care, feeling that they can be closer to you if they understand you.

Moreover, understanding your actions and motivations makes it easier to sympathize with you and truly experience the feelings you’re feeling. And that kind of connection is what interpersonal intelligence craves.

#5. Sensitivity to Moods

Who needs a mood ring when you have high interpersonal intelligence, right?

No, you don’t switch colors according to the mood in your friend group, but you can quickly read the room as soon as you step into it. And, arguably, that’s a far more useful skill.

Sensitivity to moods allows you to adjust your reactions and responses to specific circumstances and always behave appropriately in social situations.

For instance, if your friend is sad about being rejected after a job interview, it would be insensitive to gush about your successful career in front of them. High interpersonal intelligence allows you to recognize your friend’s mood and its causes and infer from that how you can make them feel better.

#6. Leadership Skills

Do you know anyone who simply behaves like a natural leader? This person likely possesses high interpersonal intelligence, as these two skills often go hand in hand.

That’s not particularly surprising—a good leader must be in tune with people’s feelings and needs, understanding what to do and say to inspire others.

At the same time, they must be excellent communicators and strike the right balance between influencing those around them and giving them space to make decisions independently.

#7. Excellent Active Listening Skills

You may not think listening to others requires much skill, but as it turns out, most people are not as good at it as they believe they are. In fact, there is a significant difference between a regular and active listener, which becomes immediately apparent when you interact with both.

Just as the name says, active listeners stay active in the conversation even when they are not the ones talking. They are present and interested, making eye contact, asking open-ended questions, and paraphrasing what’s being said to show they are engaged.

Simply put, they make their conversation partner feel heard.

Active listening skills aren’t exclusive to people with high interpersonal intelligence; anyone can develop them with enough effort. However, they do come naturally to people who possess them.

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Why Is Interpersonal Intelligence Important?

We live in a society, so our well-being and prosperity often depend on our successful interactions with others, making interpersonal intelligence a key evolutionary adaptation for social animals like us.

The reasons for this may seem obvious, but let’s dive deeper and explore them in more detail.

#1. It Helps Build Meaningful Relationships

Interpersonal intelligence allows you to easily relate to people and expertly navigate social situations.

However, we aren’t talking only about surface-level friendships and acquaintances. This intelligence helps you bond on a deeper level and build meaningful connections with all kinds of people.

And the more meaningful relationships you have, the richer your life becomes. Simultaneously, these connections help you grow as a person and hone your interpersonal skills even further.

#2. It Helps People Feel Confident

A women walking up the stairs confidently

A women walking up the stairs confidently

True confidence comes from understanding yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, which is characteristic of intrapersonal intelligence. However, there’s no denying that a certain type of confidence arises from interpersonal intelligence too.

Due to their natural skills in social situations, people with high interpersonal intelligence often receive others’ approval and support. As a result, they feel a sense of belonging to the group, which often fosters feelings of safety and confidence.

Pro tip: Aside from intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, there are seven more types: existential, naturalistic, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, linguistic, and musical.

#3. It Allows People to Exert Influence

Even the humblest of people like to know they have a degree of influence over others. For some, it’s about the sense of control and power; for others, it comes down to the simple feeling of being a person that matters.

Whatever the case, exerting influence is a crucial part of interacting with people, and developing interpersonal intelligence makes exerting influence over others significantly easier.

After all, people with this skill are more respected and seen as trustworthy by their communities. As a result, others are more likely to follow their lead and accept their suggestions.

#4. It Improves Your Job Performance

Demonstrating interpersonal intelligence as people shook hands

Demonstrating interpersonal intelligence as people shook hands

No matter what career you’re pursuing, you’ll likely have to interact with people every day. The levels of interaction may be higher in some jobs than others, but communication is still among the top skills employers seek.

High interpersonal intelligence will help you not only convince prospective employers to hire you but also keep impressing them once you start working. In fact, most people with high interpersonal intelligence quickly climb the company ranks, becoming team leaders and managers in no time.

How to Develop Interpersonal Skills

So, if you’re not one of the lucky people gifted with interpersonal intelligence, is all hope lost? Of course not. Like any other set of skills, interpersonal intelligence can be developed with continuous practice.

In fact, here are some of the ways you can boost your interpersonal intelligence:

  • Become a tutor. Teaching is a fantastic way to connect with people and understand their perspectives. It forces you to exercise patience and empathy and practice communicating ideas clearly.
  • Do community service. Community service teaches you to focus on others, putting their needs before your own. While performing it, you will come across people from various backgrounds, hear their stories, and provide them with the support they need.
  • Practice active listening. Next time you talk to someone, try to focus entirely on them. Observe their body language as you listen to them. When appropriate, ask questions to further encourage them to speak. And, most importantly, don’t immediately offer advice—even if it’s well-intentioned, it shifts the focus to you.
  • Learn to empathize. Even if you’re not a highly empathetic person, you can practice by talking to new people, trying out new experiences, and doing a lot of introspection.
  • Look for good traits in everyone. Maybe you’re not the biggest fan of your boss, but that doesn’t mean they have no good qualities whatsoever. Practice examining people around you and trying to find at least one positive quality in each, even in those you don’t like.

Good Career Matches for People With High Interpersonal Intelligence

Individuals with high interpersonal intelligence thrive in jobs involving communication and working with people. Still, we will highlight a few particularly suitable careers for interpersonal intelligence below.

#1. Talk Show Host

Two women talking on a microphone

Two women talking on a microphone

When you look at someone like Jimmy Fallon or James Corden, their job may seem pretty simple. All they do is sit in the studio and chat with people—how hard can that be?

Well, for someone who doesn’t know how to quickly build rapport with strangers or entertain an audience, it’s extremely hard.

Being able to gauge the reactions of people around you and appropriately respond to them is difficult, but interpersonal intelligence makes the process feel more natural. As a result, talk show hosts need highly developed interpersonal skills.

#2. Politician

Politician as a good career for people with interpersonal intelligence

Politician as a good career for people with interpersonal intelligence

Similarly to talk show hosts, politicians need to establish excellent rapport with the numerous people they meet throughout the day and grasp their supporters’ needs and wishes. But aside from that, they must be great at conflict resolution, staying polite and diplomatic even during heated debates with their opponents.

#3. CEO

A person talking on the phone while working

A person talking on the phone while working

Successful CEOs don't just tell their employees what to do. Instead, they observe, listen to feedback, and provide guidance and motivation that help everyone around them reach their full potential. In other words, they need superb leadership skills.

And, as we have established, leadership comes naturally to people with interpersonal intelligence. Not only that, but they also inspire trust and respect, easily exerting influence when necessary.

#4. Teacher

Teacher demonstrating her interpersonal intelligence

Teacher demonstrating her interpersonal intelligence

Teachers play a crucial role in young people’s lives, so they need to be empathetic, caring, and supportive of their students. That’s the only way they can connect with their students, positively influence them, and make a difference in their lives.

#5. Actor

Interpersonal intelligence in acting

Interpersonal intelligence in acting

The fact that actors need high interpersonal intelligence isn’t surprising. After all, they must build rapport with their fellow actors, portraying realistic relationship dynamics on screen.

But that’s not the only way interpersonal intelligence comes in handy in this job. It also helps them understand their characters’ emotions, get into their heads, and then search for those feelings within themselves.

In many ways, preparing for a role is like empathizing, but with a fictional person.

Famous People With High Interpersonal Intelligence

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of what interpersonal intelligence looks like. Yet, examples from real life could help you understand it even better. Therefore, we’d like to introduce you to three famous individuals who exhibit signs of high interpersonal intelligence.

#1. Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi as a person who had interpersonal intelligence

Mahatma Gandhi as a person who had interpersonal intelligence

Mahatma Gandhi became well known for his commitment to peace and equality as a non-violent activist who fought for Indian independence. Despite his frequent arrests, he remained firm in his belief that revolution could be brought about peacefully.

Gandhi showed interpersonal intelligence in the way he handled conflict, never letting it escalate to violence yet still finding ways to express the wishes of his people.

#2. Mother Teresa

A wall art of Mother Teresa

A wall art of Mother Teresa

Known for her charity work in Indian slums, Mother Teresa was a perfect example of someone who put other people’s needs before her own. Instead of staying in a convent, she lived with the sick and poor, believing she could help them only if she truly understood their perspective.

Despite the difficulties and frequent temptations of a more comfortable life, she persevered and established the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, whose goal was to help the destitute members of Indian society.

#3. Oprah Winfrey

Interpersonal intelligence famous people - Oprah Winfrey

Interpersonal intelligence famous people - Oprah Winfrey

Credit: cnbs.com

The famous host of The Oprah Winfrey Show had a tough life, which likely taught her to empathize with other people’s struggles. As a result, she brought guests from various backgrounds to her show, giving them space to tell their stories on television.

But her guests found more than just a safe space on her show. They also received comfort, support, and genuine compassion from Oprah, who was able to establish a connection with anyone she talked to.

Challenges Associated With High Interpersonal Intelligence

At this point, interpersonal intelligence may seem like a superpower with no downsides, but that’s not entirely true.

As it turns out, people with high interpersonal intelligence may be overly empathetic, which often results in difficulties with decision-making. When you understand everyone’s perspectives, it can be hard to pick a side or determine a course of action that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

In addition, interpersonal intelligence is naturally people-oriented, seeking validation from others. As a result, individuals who possess it may not have a stable image of themselves, feeling truly happy only when they receive attention and praise.

Key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Interpersonal intelligence is, without a doubt, one of the most important types of intelligence to develop. Without it, you may experience difficulties building meaningful relationships, advancing your career, and navigating complex social situations.

Luckily, through frequent socializing, volunteering, and active listening, you can become attuned to other people’s feelings, motivations, and needs. And once you do, you’ll notice that various aspects of your life are rapidly improving!

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