Interpersonal intelligence refers to the ability of a person to relate well with people and manage relationships. It enables people to understand the needs and motivations of those around them, which helps strengthen their overall influence.
People with interpersonal intelligence seem to stand out in a crowd as people with lots of friends and can easily adapt to social situations. They communicate effectively and enjoy participating in discussions and debates. Individuals with interpersonal intelligence are characterized by their sensitivity to other people’s moods, temperaments, motivations, and feelings.
Theory of Multiple Intelligence
Howard Gardener put forward the Theory of Multiple Intelligence in his book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence,” which he published in 1983. He said that intelligence is not defined by a single criterion such as intelligence quotient but by various behavioral criteria. He categorized intelligence into eight modalities based on these behavioral criteria.
Gardener listed the following forms of intelligence:
Musical intelligence: Ability to identify rhythms and sounds
Visual Intelligence: Ability to visualize and become aware of the surrounding environment
Linguistic Intelligence: Ability to use words effectively
Mathematical/Logical reasoning: Conceptual and abstract thinking
Interpersonal Intelligence: Ability of a person to understand and interact with other people effectively
Kinesthetic Intelligence: Ability to use the body effectively
Naturalistic Intelligence: Unique knowledge about plants and nature
Intrapersonal Intelligence: Ability to understand one’s innermost feelings
Gardener’s Example of Interpersonal Intelligence
In his 2006 book entitled “Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice,” Gardener used the example of Anne Sullivan, a teacher who taught Helen Keller. Although Sullivan was nearly blind and possessed little formal training in teaching children with special needs, she took the task of teaching Keller, a blind and deaf seven-year-old.
Sullivan exhibited high interpersonal intelligence when dealing with Keller, and she effectively understood her special needs, moods, temperament, and motivations. Through her interpersonal intelligence, Sullivan helped Keller become one of the leading authors and lecturers of the 20th century.
According to Gardener, people with interpersonal intelligence easily empathize with others and are gifted in dealing with other people. He said that people with such a skill are naturally inclined to become politicians, teachers, therapists, diplomats, salespeople, and negotiators. The occupations require people who can look at situations differently and take an adaptive approach.
Famous People with Interpersonal Intelligence
Several famous individuals are noted for their interpersonal intelligence when dealing with other people. They include:
Mahatma Gandhi was a lawyer and activist who led the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. He helped his country achieve independence by employing non-violent civil disobedience at a time when other countries were using violence against the colonialists. Despite being imprisoned on many occasions, Gandhi inspired his community to demand self-rule. Through this interpersonal intelligence, he inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the world.
Mother Teresa is best known for her charity work and her ability to understand the feelings of the poor. In the course of her charity work, Mother Teresa moved from the convent to go and live with the poor. She helped establish schools for the poor, orphanages, hospices, and leper houses. At one point when she lived with the poor, Mother Teresa shared how difficult life was for her because she received no income, begged for food, experienced loneliness, and even had temptations to return to the convent.
She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a religious congregation that manages homes for people living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy, TB, and other diseases; orphanages, dispensaries, and mobile clinics; as well as family and children counseling programs.
Oprah Winfrey is a media proprietor, actress, producer, and host of The Oprah Winfrey Show. She became popular because of her ability to listen, talk, and relate to others. Her show became the highest-rated television program in history from 1986 to 2011.
Although she came from an abusive childhood, Winfrey’s been credited with creating an intimate confessional form of media communication. Through her popular tabloid talk show, she broke the 20th-century taboos by allowing LGBT people to enter the media space.
Bill Clinton rose from the ranks of Attorney General of Arkansas and Governor of Arkansas to become the 42nd President of the United States. His political success has been mainly credited to his personality and ability to relate well with people. He was the first Democrat to be re-elected into the office of the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt.
Clinton left office in 2001 with the highest approval rating of any US president of his time, and he consistently received high ratings in public opinion polls. Even after his retirement from the presidency, Bill Clinton remains involved in public speaking, humanitarian work, and politics.
How Teachers Can Enhance Interpersonal Intelligence in the Classroom
Classrooms offer a platform for students with interpersonal intelligence to showcase their rare skill set. Teachers can help such students put into use their skills through a variety of activities. One of these activities is offering students an opportunity to teach other students. It allows them to interact with their colleagues and practice their listening skills. It also helps them enhance their communication skills by listening and responding to the questions presented by other students.
Another activity that teachers can use to help students with interpersonal intelligence is creating group work projects. Group work allows students to share their different perspectives and receive feedback on their performance. Students with interpersonal intelligence will be useful in such projects, especially when it comes to delegating duties and holding the group members together.
When there are conflicts among members, these individuals can help reconcile any disagreements and encourage members to stay focused on the ultimate goal. Such activities will prepare these students in future occupations as leaders, politicians, and entrepreneurs by learning how to solve conflicts, take risks, and encourage communication.
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