Remember the groundbreaking book, EQ: Emotional Intelligence? Now the same author says our brains may actually be hardwired to connect with other people. Gayle talks with Daniel Goleman, who shares highlights from his new bestseller Social Intelligence, and talks about the impact our relationships have on our lives.
Daniel tells Gayle that "social intelligence" is all about being smart in our relationships. "It's empathy; knowing what someone's feeling without them telling us in words, because people don't—they tell us in tone of voice, facial expressions, body language," he says. "It's being able to read all that; being able to sense how someone else is seeing the situation; taking their perspective. It's very practical—being able to know how to operate in an unusual social situation."
Daniel says social intelligence is something we both learn and instinctively know. He says every human being starts learning social intelligence from infancy. "The very first moment a mom interacts with a new baby, that baby's brain is learning how people get along," he says. The learning of social intelligence continues in our lifetimes through personal interactions, he says.
One of the most fascinating developments in the field recently is the discovery of a new class of neuron, Daniel says. Called mirror neurons, they operate "kind of like a neuron Wi-Fi. They tune in brains to each other. … Whatever [children] see someone else do, their mirror neurons take that in, and the neurons say to the kid, 'When such-and-such happens, this is what you do.'"
Daniel says mirror neurons work by creating in our brain exactly the same activity that it detects in the other person. "This system works automatically out of awareness and tells us what's going on," he says. "If we had to stop and think, 'What does that scowl mean?,' it would paralyze us socially. So thank goodness we have this very powerful automatic social brain."