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Intrapersonal vs Interpersonal Intelligence; Can you be strong in both?

Intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence are two of the types defined in Dr. Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. At first, they might seem contradictory, but we are all capable of both and I see them more as complementary, and we can improve both of them. But before I get into how we can improve them, let’s look at what they are.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence, also called self-smart, is the ability to decipher and analyze your personal motives, desires, thoughts, and emotions. It helps you understand what you want, what you don’t want, why you are the way you are, and why you react the way you do.
If you have a strong intrapersonal intelligence you are great at reflection and evaluating yourself, which leads to you being better at regulating and control your own attitude and thoughts. You are aware of your feelings and how they impact you.
Here are some words and phrases that often are used to describe a person with strong intrapersonal intelligence;

  • intuitive
  • self-aware
  • spend time reflecting
  • like to learn about self
  • philosophical
  • independent
  • enjoy journaling
  • works well alone
  • introvert
  • self-motivated
  • often self-employed

Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence is often called people smart. As a people smart person you thrive in social settings, you easily make friends, you relate well with others, and you are good at managing relationships. You understand the needs and motivations of others, and you can easily adapt to different social settings.
You are sensitive to other people’s moods, temperaments, motivations, and feelings, and you are great at mentoring others, work in groups, and as a tutor. You are very good at communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and you have the ability to entertain multiple perspectives at one time.
Here are some words and expressions often used to describe an interpersonal intelligent person;

  • extroverted
  • enjoy social events
  • enjoy teaching others
  • has many friends
  • enjoy team sports
  • counsel others
  • loves meeting new people
  • sensitive to others

How to improve?

Even though they at first glance can seem like opposites we all have the capability of both and can improve on both of them. You have to start by taking a close look at yourself and determine which of the two is the stronger one, and then focus on improving the other.

Improving your intrapersonal intelligence

The easiest way to start improving your intrapersonal intelligence is to start writing a journal. Take some time for yourself each night and write down your thoughts about how your day has been, what interactions you have had with other people, and how those made you feel and react.
Another way is to keep a dream journal. Have a notebook next to your bed, and if you wake up and t=still remember a dream, write down a few words that you were dreaming before the day takes your dream away.
Meditation is another way to improve your self-smart. If you don’t know how to meditated there are lots of instruction videos on YouTube, just search for meditation for beginners and I am sure you will find something you like.
Or why not teach yourself a new skill, maybe you are interested in learning something creative like painting, or playing an instrument. Just go for it.
Set aside 10-30 minutes each day for me-time, and I am not talking about going to the spa me-time, I am talking about time for self-reflection. Any of the methods I have mentioned will work, or you can take a nature-walk by yourself and let your thoughts drift, and the important part here is by yourself.

Improving your interpersonal intelligence

The first step to improving your people-smart is to practice empathy. Empathy is all about your ability to picture yourself in another personas shoes. Here is an exercise I found at psychology today which can help you;

  1. Think about your partner, a co-worker, a family member, or a friend
  2. What has that person’s mood been like lately?
  3. What do you think is going on in this person’s life that might be making them feel happy, sad, anxious, or angry?
  4. How are you contributing to this?
  5. What could you do or say to improve this person’s situation?

Another way to practice empathy is to show interest in new people when you meet someone new ask questions about their life, and listen.
This leads to the next tip, learn how to be an active listener. Here are some key points to active listening

  • make eye-contact
  • paraphrase what the other person is saying
  • don’t interrupt
  • watch for non-verbal signs
  • shut down your inner dialogue
  • show interest by asking questions
  • be open, neutral and non-judgemental
  • be patient

Another aspect you need to improve is working in a group. The group can be a work team, a sports team, your family, or a group of friends. There are a few things you need to think about in order to be an active team member, especially if you are more self-smart, and they are;

  • acknowledge the contribution of others
  • ask for help when you need it
  • don’t be afraid of taking the lead if needed
  • anticipate the needs of your team members
  • maintain an optimistic outlook

My final thoughts

I believe it is important for us all to improve both these types of intelligence to improve our own life and the life of other people.
I know from personal experience how hard it can be, I have naturally a stronger intrapersonal intelligence and have had to work hard on my people-smart skills. But I believe that today, at the age of 62, I have reached a good balance between the two. If I have an opportunity to chose I still very much prefer to work by myself and avoid big gatherings, but I am not awkward in those situations anymore.
I hope some of my tips can help you improve both your intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence and as always if you want to see the video on the topic it is linked down below.