Social Intelligence (What Think You?)

Did you know that emotions can pass from person to person silently, without anyone consciously noticing?

I did and I didn’t.

I’ve often wondered how I can be around certain people and just feel good, while when I’m with others, I just feel bad (anxious, uptight, on edge.)

This emotion contagion is so common and so widespreadly wired into us physiologically that most people aren’t even aware of why they respond in specific ways.

Author Daniel Goleman writes in his book, Social Intelligence, that humans create an emotional contagion when the brain is at work using the “low road.” The low road is the circuitry that operates beneath our awareness, automatically, and effortlessly, with immense speed.

The “high road,” in contrast, runs through neural systems that work more methodically and step by step, with deliberate effort.

The low road can be seen as “wet,” dripping with emotion, and the high road as relatively “dry,” coolly rational. The low road traffics in raw feelings, the high in a considered understanding of what’s going on. The low road lets us immediately feel with someone else; the high road can think about what we feel. Ordinarily, they mesh seemlessly. Our social lives are governed by the interplay of these two modes.

What this means is that we all have two operating systems happening simultaneously and just being aware of how innately we respond can help us act/react in socially intelligent ways.

I can’t number the times when I’ve commented about getting a “vibe” from someone and then later it was proved true.

So, for me, I think it’s a fascinating study of how our brains operate.

Goleman included a telling quote by Edgar Allan Poe about how simple it is to transfer an emotion to another person using facial expression.

When I wish to find out how good or how wicked anyone is, or what are his thoughts at the moment, I fashion the expression of my face, as accurately as possible, in accordance with the expression of his, and then wait to see what thoughts or sentiments arise in my own mind or heart, as if to match or correspond with the expression.

The low road of emotions is our immediate, instinctive response to a set of events or to a person.

The high road of emotions is our thoughtful evaluation and response to our low road perspective.

And we need both to be socially intelligent.


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