According to the Institute for the Future (IFTF), our ability to feel emotions and assess the feelings of those around us is one of the key factors that sets us apart from machines.
As a skill, social intelligence is nothing new and it’s already highly valued in the workplace. Employees who can work effectively in teams, build relationships and gain the trust of their colleagues are generally going to be more successful than those who can’t and it looks like this will continue in the future.
The IFTF believes that in the future we will be required to collaborate with a more diverse set of colleagues in a range of different settings. Connecting to others and building communities has always been part of human living and as technology facilitates these communities and connections, social intelligence becomes more crucial than ever.
This need for social connection is reflected in the development of robots with social or emotional characteristics. While they might be programmed to exhibit outward signs of social and emotional intelligence, robots are not able to experience true feelings the way that humans do. Our ability to have feelings and relate socially is one of the main characteristics that sets us apart from machines.
The good news is that it’s never too young to start developing social intelligence. According to Deborah Farmer Kris, former schoolteacher and Boston University associate, children as young as two or three can start learning to identify their emotions and develop strategies to manage them.
Deborah Farmer Kris cites a number of studies that support this idea including one by the US department of Health and Human Services that looked at thousands of students across the country and found that teaching social skills to pre-schoolers had a positive impact on their behaviour and ability to engage in learning in the classroom.
Many schools are aware of this and programs like PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies) are being implemented in hundreds of schools across the US. While this is helpful for all children on some level, the biggest benefits have been reportedly seen with children who come from troubled backgrounds where they don’t learn healthy self-expression skills at home.
Social intelligence is one of the key skills for success in the workplace and in our general lives. It doesn’t matter how intelligent or driven you are, if you can’t relate to other people, or if you are not able to manage your emotions, chances are you are not going to get very far in life.