IATEFL 2018: Social Intelligence for Teachers – Margit Szezty

What is Social Intelligence (SI)?

It is the ability to get on with others, to interact with others, successfully. Based on a deep connection, with yourself (aware of own feelings and emotions) and narrowing the gap between how you think you come across to others an how you relly come across to others. Also based on a connection with others, being aware of how they are feeling, being able to connect with them and tune in to them. In some ways it’s about switching off the autopilot. It is also about impulse control – the gap between impulse and reaction. E.g. in a social situation when you want to respond to something that someone has said, that is your impulse, what you actually say is your reaction. There needs to be a pause between the two.

Surface and deep level features

3 surface-level features (visible – have to do with behaviour and speech):

  • starting a conversation with someone (in itself not so easy sometimes)
  • directing the conversation (many conversations are ritualistic at the beginning, in order to move beyond the superficial you need to direct it rather than letting it happen to you)
  • speaking with clarity and turn-taking (don’t monologue)

Deeper level features

  • Mindsight (able to read other peoples’ emotions – perhaps by facial expression, tone of voice, pace; not just  hearing their words)
  • The ability to hold ideas loosely (being able to cope with ambiguity in conversations and not being disturbed by it. You say something with precision but then you let go of it)
  • Awareness of other people around you, aware that you are sharing time and space with others.

SI has an individual and a group dimension. It’s a property of the individual but it is also the emerging property of a group. You can activate it, then if the group is acting intelligently, they are harmonised and together and a group mind is activated. Margit asked us to estimate how many people were in the room and how many countries are represented, to make us more aware of the rest of the people in the room. In order to estimate the number of countries, you have to have a closer look. In a classroom, asking who is absent can have the same effect (makes them look more carefully at the group as a whole).

<Word association game in groups.> To have a discussion in a group, you need to move into group mode first. That was the purpose of the game.

Why do teachers need social intelligence? Three circles – in the middle classroom. Lots of relationships. It’s important for teachers to know what is going on in the classroom and be able to pick up signs of anxiety, excitement etc and work with it. The second circle is society. Students and teachers move in and out of the classroom into society, where collaboration with others is often required. E.g. workplace, family etc. Learning to work together and collaborate is important. The third circle stands for the living planet. The very carefully balanced ecosystem around that we are part of. One of the most important things are social intelligence is about connection, with self, with others, with the planet (which humans seem to have lost). If we go on endangering it, we are endangering ourselves. It is not our individual activities, it is the cumulative effect, the total sum, which have unintended and ‘invisible’ consequences as we live in a comfortable, convenient micro-world. We need to move into the third level to be more aware of our effect. Social intelligence is intrapersonal, interpersonal and ecological.

Tools for raising awareness of SI

  • 3 positions and NLP – not physical positions but perceptual positions. Our three main positions are 1) the Me position (as a teacher, this is my lesson plan, this is what I want to do/achieve) 2) the You position, the empathy position (looking around and picking up on others’ feelings. It can be a bit overwhelming.) 3) The helicopter view (The ability to stand back and see the situation – yourself and your students – from the outside. Useful when things get overwhelming)
  • 6 thinking hats – Edward deBono identified six different ways of thinking, each given a different coloured hat. Red is impulsive, gut reaction thinking, White stands for information, collecting facts and figures. Yellow is positive thinking. Green is creativity. Blue is the overview hat (like the helicopter view, the awareness hat)
  • Stories – Margit told us a story abut a deep dark forest with two protagonists. 2 men are lost. One is blind, the other is lame. They have been wondering around for ages trying to find their way out. They meet and start talking. The man with the vision has a thought – sees a powerful, young man, and suggests that he get on his shoulders as he has good eyesight but cannot walk, and together they could find their way out of the forest. This is what happens, and out they go.

Enemies of Social Intelligence

What makes it difficult to be socially intelligent?

  • Fear (of failure)
  • Being programmed
  • Upbringing
  • Cultural influence

Individualism and collectivism can both affect social intelligence/not favour it. One of the biggest obstacles is authority. Being able to think critically is important.


One thought on “IATEFL 2018: Social Intelligence for Teachers – Margit Szezty

  1. Pingback: IATEFLections: a round-up for 2018 – Lizzie Pinard

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