Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Social Intelligence:  the New Science of Human Relationships, by Daniel Goleman, Bantam, 2006.

This outstanding book talks about human emotions, relationships, and the brain science that helps explain them.  It has huge applications for leadership and communication. Section 1 explains why listening, empathy and authenticity are so important (especially in leadership); and describes how much we truly impact each other.  The rest of the book addresses areas less directly applicable to leadership (like sex, love and kissing for example).  The book is well-written, engaging, and has extensive references to research.

Some key points from Section 1:

  • Our brains process the emotional impact of facial expressions faster than we process the visual signals.  “We can react microseconds before we even know what we are looking at.”
  • When we look at photos of people’s faces, our facial muscles automatically start to mirror the other person’s facial expression.  And, our own facial expressions create moods in us.  We are wired together with other people’s emotions
  • Mirror neurons cause us to feel whatever emotion is expressed on another’s face
  • When we try to suppress an emotion while we talk with someone, our blood pressure rises–but so does theirs
  • If we push down strong emotions, they leak out anyway
  • Emotional openness increases connection with others
  • Facial muscles are controlled by automatic impulses.  People who lie are betrayed by their facial expressions (See also Paul Eckman’s work)
  • Mentally rehearsing works because it engages the same neurons as when we actually do the activity we are mentally rehearsing
  • Laughter creates an instant bond
  • When we see an act of kindness, it stirs in us a desire to do a similar act
  • Simply labeling the emotions we are feeling can help us calm down
  • Listening well is an ability that distinguishes the best managers, teachers and leaders

I would highly recommend this book for any leader, especially for those who want to get better at navigating human relationships and communication.