The most socially intelligent people don’t only know how to behave in social settings, they know how NOT to behave.
For starters, you’d never catch a socially intelligent person doing these things (plus you can be more socially intelligent by learning from those who are):
1. Making jokes at the expense of others.
Many people make this mistake when it comes to social interactions—but not those in the know!
While this can be harmless amongst friends who know each other’s boundaries, this is a big no-no when it comes to most social situations.
Making fun of someone or making a joke at their expense is socially unacceptable. It belittles the other person and is essentially a form of bullying.
It might be funny, and others may laugh, but it’s not fair on the victim of your jokes.
Go beyond simply avoiding this, and actively start calling it out when you see other people doing it!
Stand up for what you know is right and maintain your reputation as a socially intelligent person.
2. Purposefully excluding others from the conversation.
Imagine you’re with a friend and their mutual friend. They’ll have some topics of conversation you can’t voice an opinion on (like their work if they work together, or their other mutual friends), but you’d be upset if it carried on for too long, right?
Remember how it feels to be that third wheel, and make sure you don’t do the same to other people!
If you want to catch up with a friend about a specific topic that only the two of you know about, then schedule a separate time to do that.
Otherwise, you risk alienating people and making them less likely to spend time with you in the future for fear of the same thing happening again.
Make sure everyone in the group can contribute equally to the conversations and keep them neutral and mutual!
3. Trying to make the conversation all about them.
We’ve all met someone who does this—every time you share something, they find a way to make the story about them.
Don’t be this person!
When you insert yourself into every story or conversation, you’re essentially telling the other person that your voice is more important than theirs; that your story is better.
Of course, it’s not always intentionally nasty! Maybe you get carried away in the excitement, or it feels like an appropriate time to chip in or share your own experiences.
This is where reading the room is so important, as it allows you to figure out how those around you would feel if you were to share your story!
Let people tell their own stories, and, if yours feels particularly poignant or relevant, consider waiting to bring it up another time.
4. Talking over other people.
This has to be most people’s number one ‘ick’ when it comes to social interactions, surely?
We’ve all done it before, but we’re also all aware of how irritating it is when someone else does it!
There are times when it’s kind of okay, of course—like with your close friends or family members, or when you’re all getting hyped up and everyone else is also talking over each other.
Beyond that, though? A bit rude!
Being socially intelligent means understanding when to let other people speak and waiting for your turn. While it can be tempting to jump in, try to avoid this as much as possible.
It can make the other person feel like their stories don’t deserve to be told, or that there are more important topics to go through instead.
A lot of people, even if they seem confident or extroverted, can find it difficult to speak up in group settings or social interactions. Give people the space and time to have their say.
Consider how you would feel if you never got to finish a sentence or were constantly interrupted.
If you’re worried that you’re going to forget your point and feel like you need to interrupt before it goes out of your mind, maybe try making a note of it on your phone instead.
That way, you can enjoy hearing someone else’s story before you say your piece—more enjoyable for everyone involved!
5. Trying to one-up every story.
Socially intelligent people know when to let someone else have their moment to shine.
One of the most upsetting and frustrating aspects of social interactions is when other people feel the need to one-up you.
You can be telling a story about something great that happened, like a pay rise, and someone else then has to go one level above you and talk about how their pay rise is more than yours, or they’ve had a more successful time than you.
Of course, it’s not that every achievement shouldn’t be celebrated, but it’s upsetting when you’re proud of something and want to share it.
Other people feeling the need to compete with you or one-up you simply highlights their insecurities. Maybe they feel threatened by you or worry that everyone prefers you—which is why they need to ‘prove’ that they’re ‘better’ than you.
Socially intelligent people know that this isn’t acceptable or nice behavior and that it makes those around them feel uncomfortable or unimportant.
6. Bringing up sensitive topics.
We’ve all made accidental faux pas during social interactions, and probably spent a fair amount of time beating ourselves up afterwards.
The realization that you’ve just brought up a sensitive topic or accidentally insulted someone is the worst feeling in the world.
You worry that you’ve upset someone and they’re going to hold it against you, you worry that everyone else thinks you were being offensive or mean on purpose, and you’re hyper-aware of everything else you say in case you do it again!
Of course, this is often by accident—most of us don’t want to hurt those around us—but it still feels awful.
Part of being socially intelligent is having the ability to read the room. You can pick up on topics that cause a reaction from some people within the group and avoid those topics moving forward.
If you’re worried or have done this to a friend by accident a few times in the past, why not check in with mutual friends and see if there are any topics you should avoid?
It’s always good to get a heads up on what to avoid talking about—maybe someone’s gone through a recent breakup that you don’t yet know about or has lost someone important in their life.
If they’ve not yet told you, it’s never going to be your ‘fault’ for bringing it up, but it’s good to check with mutual friends first if this is something that has happened to you a few times before!
Socially intelligent people also have a bit of a mental archive of what conversations are appropriate for certain friendship groups. They know what to avoid saying in front of who!
7. Having too many in-jokes.
If you’re in a group, you need to be aware of conversation topics or in-jokes that will isolate others around you.
Most of us feel as though jokes sit outside the normal expectations of social behavior. They’re funny, so they can’t hurt anyone’s feelings, right?
Wrong! Being around people who have in-jokes that you’re not involved in is potentially worse than just not being able to contribute to a conversation topic you know nothing about.
Not only do you feel left out, but you worry that you’re not seen as funny enough to be involved in the jokes, or you might panic that the jokes are actually about you.
As soon as people have any form of ‘secret language’ or in-jokes, the other person will naturally start to wonder whether the others are keeping a secret or why they’re not included. Which, needless to say, is a horrible feeling!
Save the in-jokes for one-on-one time and make an effort to include everyone.
They don’t need to be part of every single second of your conversation, especially if there are others in the group they could speak to, but it’s nice to be nice!
8. Getting into petty arguments / being controversial.
We all get annoyed sometimes, but how we deal with that frustration shows how socially intelligent and emotionally mature we are.
Letting ourselves get riled up over small disagreements is normal, but it’s how we let ourselves react that matters most.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that people make in social situations. They take things too seriously or get too defensive.
A lot of people feel that someone expressing their opinion is an opportunity to share their views or counter-argue—this isn’t wrong, it just isn’t normally worth it!
Unless you’re actively involved in a political discussion, most people won’t want to listen to a debate or hear your convoluted or controversial opinions. That might sound harsh, but that’s how society works!
Equally, most people know when they’re being controversial. They know when others start getting upset or when people try to move the conversation along, and they know by people’s reactions that their views aren’t common.
By choosing to voice your opinions when you know they’re controversial, you’re essentially choosing to create an uncomfortable environment for those around you.
We’re not saying you can’t share your opinion—as everyone has an equal right to use their voice—we’re just saying it’s something to consider, knowing what the impact and outcomes are likely to be.
Keeping the peace is an unspoken rule of social interactions, so do your best to follow it.
9. Taking things too personally.
One of the golden rules of interactions is not taking things personally.
Of course, there are exceptions to this—if someone is going out of their way to offend you or is bringing up personal things in a pointed way, you 100% have the right to get offended!
Beyond that, though, socially intelligent people understand that most things brought up in general conversations really aren’t that serious.
Very few people go out of their way to be rude or offensive, and it’s important to remember that if you feel like things are getting personal.
Has someone tried to offend you, or are you simply triggered by something that’s come up?
Is someone pointing out your insecurities, or does it just so happen that something they’ve said is linked to one of your insecurities?
Are they making a joke at your expense or just making a joke that happens to have resonated with you?
Consider that they probably don’t know what your insecurities are, and that it’s pure chance that something they’ve said has triggered you. They might even be making a joke at their own expense, and it just so happens to hit home for you, too.
Taking a step back from things and reviewing them objectively is important if you want to be socially intelligent!
10. Trauma dumping.
This is a biggie!
It’s worth noting that there are exceptions to this kind of behavior—it’s okay to overshare or have a big vent or dump your emotions with close friends and loved ones.
It’s polite to check in with someone first and see if they have the headspace or capacity for a big, emotional chat first, but, providing they say yes, this is an okay form of this behavior.
Beyond that, trauma dumping is generally considered to be inappropriate or unfair.
For those unaware, trauma dumping is exactly what it sounds like—offloading a lot of traumatic stories or feelings on someone, whether they’re expecting it or not.
This can be hard for the other person for several reasons. Maybe they don’t have the emotional capacity to support you, or maybe the topics of your stories are triggering for them and remind them of their own trauma.
Either way, doing this can highlight someone’s emotional immaturity or lack of understanding of societal rules and expectations.
We’re not saying you can never share your feelings or have deep chats; we’re just saying you need to be aware of the impact it can have on other people and choose wisely when you bring it up!
This, then, is a quick reminder of all the things a socially intelligent person knows NOT to do. You’ll probably already know if you are socially intelligent, but if you’re in doubt, consider how many of these behaviors you exhibit.
And if there are certain things from this list that you are guilty of doing, know that they can all be stopped with some self-awareness, some effort, and some alternative strategies.
You may also like:
- 9 things socially intelligent people always do (that anyone can learn)
- 10 Things Polite People Do And Don’t Do
- 15 Behaviors That Make Someone Instantly Likeable