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Strength of the Week – Social Intelligence – week 2

“The single most important lesson I learned in 25 years of talking every single day to people, was that there’s a common denominator in our human experience. The common denominator I found in every single interview is we want to be validated. We want to be understood.” – OPRAH WINFREY

Social Intelligence is the ability to understand our emotions and those of others around us; to perceive what makes us and them ‘tick’. It helps us to build relationships and navigate social environments with family, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers. It helps us to be aware of the emotions and the motives of both ourselves and other people, past and present, and can help us to regulate our responses, so that we can carry ourselves comfortably in different social contexts. Think of the person you know who times a joke brilliantly or delivers the perfect compliment – these are examples of social intelligence at work!

Sometimes people who have strong social intelligence can come across as confident or we might see them as having ‘strong people skills’. Often, they also usually enjoy helping others to manage complex social situations and feel comfortable in addressing challenges they may face.

Interestingly, the strong relationships that can develop as a result of social intelligence can have an impact on our physical health as the science says that our immune system actually improves and this helps us fight disease, so we can see the importance of growing this strength. In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown shares that loneliness and weak relationships are some of the major sources of stress, health problems and depression, and living with loneliness increases our risk of premature death by an enormous 45%!

How can we develop social intelligence and allow for our relationships with others to be more meaningful and genuine?

For our young people, it’s tricky as they often don’t regulate or read emotions accurately as a result of the physical stage of brain development- we’ve learned a lot more about this as a result of technology and research in the last 20 years.

We can reflect on social situations and our own behaviour and responses, learning from our successes and failures, and importantly, we can reflect on the manner people around us who really make us feel listened to and affirmed. What is it that they do that allows us leave that conversation feeling valued and cared for as though we really matter?

At St Michael’s on most days, we have conversations around social intelligence in classrooms all over the campus! In addition, many other activities build on this capacity. This week we see the first of the workshops for Girls’ classes in Year 7-9, in our Enlighten Education workshop on Friday for Year 8 Girls. This program works constructively to build social intelligence, conflict resolution skills and self-awareness and confidence! On Monday morning Year 10 students were lucky to have the opportunity to gather to participate in the presentation of Poetry in Action – a performance which focused on the poetry of Wilfred Owen and his experiences of war as a young man. I know students would have left this session with a much stronger insight into the value and accessibility of poetry and the experiences of a generation so far removed from their own. It was hard not to be emotionally engaged by the performance! Mr Spadavecchia also shared an amazing song; Dear Brother- Sounds of De La Salle, created by De La Salle College in New Zealand, that interweaves beautifully with this strength- you might like to have a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=bJ1gFqwujjg .

Harper Lee wrote the character of Atticus in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. One of his famous lines… “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of viewuntil you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” captures beautifully the value of all of these experiences in the building of social intelligence.

The rich learning experiences of each day can help us to understand our individual experiences, emotions and responses better, and really can help us know, value and care for each other, and become the learners and leaders of the world.

Tonia Carfora, Year 7-9 Wellbeing Initiatives Leader