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Home » Knowledge gives you confidence: What is socio-emotional intelligence?

Knowledge gives you confidence: What is socio-emotional intelligence?

Socio-emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware, acknowledge, manage, channel, apply and express our emotions and social interactions in the appropriate manner and the right context, for the right purpose, with the right person and at the appropriate time.

In order to develop this definition I have looked at theories of intelligence developed by Robinson and Aronica (2009) and Lucas and Claxton (2010) who see intelligence as something that can be developed, expanded and malleable. I have also learned a great deal from Salovey and Mayer (1990), Goleman (1996, 2007), Bar-On (2005) , Gardner (2000)  and others who specifically tackle emotional and social intelligence.

I feel socio-emotional intelligence takes on a more holistic approach which also takes into account what Aristotle (ca 350BC) called practical wisdom – doing the right thing at the righ time- and Polanyi’s (1966) tacit knowledge -that latent knowing without knowing, like having a gut feeling or an intuition.

It can be linked or be placed under the umbrella of positive psychology which is “the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive.”  But it is also linked to humanistic approaches such as those developed by Carl Rogers (1961) and Abraham Maslow (2014).

Some areas of socio-emotional intelligence are:


Within these areas there are many more aspects. Below is a list of useful sources if you want to find out more about the background theory that has influenced my thinking.


Aristotle, ca 350BC. Nicomachean Ethics [online]. Translated by Ross, W. D. Adelaide: The University of Adelaide.

Bar-On, R., 2005. The Bar-On model of emotional-social intelligence. In P. Fernández-Berrocal and N. Extremera (Guest Editors), Special Issue on Emotional Intelligence. Psicothema, 17.

Gardner, H. 2000. Intelligence Reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century.  New York: Basic Books.

Goleman, D., 1996. Emotional intelligence. London: Arrow books.

Goleman, D., 2007.  Social intelligence. London: Arrow books.

Lucas, B., and Claxton, G., 2010. New kinds of smart: How the science of learnable intelligence is changing education. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Maslow, A. H., 2014. Towards a psychology of being. Floyd, VA: Sublime Books.  

Polanyi, M., 1966. The tacit dimension. Chicago: The university of Chicago Press.

Robinson, K., and Aronica. L., 2009. The element: How finding your passion changes everything. London: Penguin Books.

Rogers, Carl.,1961. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. London: Constable.

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