Everyone makes social mistakes to some extent; none of us are perfect.
However, noticing these five signs consistently in someone you know or even yourself clearly indicates low social intelligence.
We are all guilty of some of these from time to time, but the question is, how many of them? And how often?
Let’s dive in.
1) Invading personal space
We’ve all had encounters when somebody stood way too close to us when talking. So close that you can practically count their eyelashes.
When this happens, we want nothing more than to take a step back, and sometimes we do…only for them to move closer.
There are exceptions, however. It may be a cultural issue.
In some cultures, it is normal to stand a little closer to someone than you might consider okay. If you have traveled a lot, you may have noticed this.
A study reported in the Washington Post exemplifies this well. The study, which included over 9,000 people from 42 countries, found quite noticeable differences in how far people stand from each other in different countries.
For example, in Romania, people stand a whopping 4.6 feet away from people they don’t know. In Argentina, this drops to just 2.5 feet. The USA sits between these two extremes at 3.1 feet.
So keep in mind who you are talking with before passing judgment.
2) Monopolizing conversations
This one can be a bit more difficult to spot than the previous two, but it is a sign of a lack of social awareness nonetheless.
Have you ever been in a conversation where one person seems intent on talking the whole time?
They don’t acknowledge what others say and want to talk continually, likely about their own interests, opinions, or, worse yet, themselves.
They will often also go back to an earlier topic they want to keep discussing, even though the conversation has moved on.
This goes against all popular advice on how to get along with people well.
As noted by Dale Carnegie in his hugely popular classic book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, we should “Be a good listener” and “Encourage others to talk about themselves”.
To some extent, we are all guilty of this, though. I certainly have been.
No matter how selfless we believe ourselves to be, we are all the main characters in the novels of our lives. And sometimes, this can materialize.
If you have noticed this in someone else once or twice, it might be wise to give them the benefit of the doubt.
However, if someone does this every time you meet them, you are probably dealing with someone of low social intelligence, especially if it is combined with this next point.
We’ve all been there. We were in a conversation that seemed to be going fine until someone started sharing details about their life that were just too intimate for how well we know them.
You know how it is. People who you barely know delve deep into their recent divorce or a medical treatment they recently had.
You want to be empathetic and polite, but you feel super uncomfortable and at a loss for how to respond.
It’s not your fault.
While honesty is important, there is a limit on what we should share with people who are not that close to us.
As noted by Sex and Relationship expert Niki Davis-Fainbloom, “People may overshare because of a desire for attention or validation, a lack of boundaries, a need for emotional regulation, social norms that encourage sharing, or mental health issues.”
Sometimes, it’s a temporary habit when someone struggles with something like a breakup. In this case, they probably know that they are oversharing but simply can’t help themselves.
Regardless of where it comes from, it’s a clear sign of low social intelligence.
It might be wise to go easy on people if they do this just once or twice. Think about it; if they had closer people to them to tell, they probably wouldn’t be getting it off their chest in your company.
That’s not to say you should enable this behavior when it happens often. You can’t bear the weight of everyone’s problems on your shoulders.
While this one is tolerable at times, the next sign is a big one and a huge pet peeve of mine personally.
4) Offering unsolicited advice
Ever been in a situation in which it feels like someone is continuously forcing advice on you?
They tell you what you should and shouldn’t do despite you not having requested any advice whatsoever. I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances like this.
One friend I used to play golf with constantly gave me tips on my swing and what I should be doing to improve.
While I believe he had good intentions, it got a bit irritating. It was hard to ignore, and it would distract me from just enjoying the game of golf.
And just in case you are wondering, he wasn’t a better player than I; it was a case of the blind leading the blind.
More annoyingly, a few years back, I had a work acquaintance who seemed intent on advising me on how to handle romantic relationships.
He’d give me neverending dating advice that I didn’t ask for. I mean, seriously, he’d just break into a speech telling me how to treat my girlfriend at the time (now wife).
After going through a divorce, he found the love of his life, which somehow meant that he was all-knowing in matters of relationships. Despite obvious signs that I was not interested in hearing what he had to say, he persisted in telling me how I should live my life.
You can probably tell by my tone that just thinking about it irritates me. I know it shouldn’t.
His behavior, like many on this list, may have stemmed from insecurity, but it can also be a dangerous sign of narcissism. As noted by Very Well Mind, narcissists often want to be a ‘teacher’ whether you ask to be or not.
While I can put up with golf buddies commenting on my swing, I really don’t like when people offer me completely unsolicited advice on my personal life.
I’d bet you don’t, either.
If you have made it clear you don’t appreciate it, but they continue telling you how you should live your life, it’s a sure sign of low social intelligence.
5) Missing conversation cues to wrap up
Most of us would agree that conversations have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
However, those who lack social intelligence often don’t pick up on signals that someone wants to end a conversation.
We try everything short of just walking away.
We mention how busy we are at that moment. We say, “Well, it was good to see you..”. We use body language to show that we are ready to leave.
And it doesn’t work. The person seems intent on talking more.
It should be obvious that you want to end the conversation, right?
Well, studies would suggest it’s not and that we are all probably more guilty of missing these cues than we think.
In a recent study reported on by Science.org , a whopping 69% of the participants said they wanted the conversation to end before it did.
In many cases, both people wanted to finish the conversation but were too polite to do so.
If most of us want to end conversations earlier but fail to do so, what chance do we have with those who can’t pick up on social cues?
Maybe it’s time we just started walking away.
The bottom line
We are all guilty of making social faux pas from time to time. That said, if some of these five are regular occurrences in your social interactions, it suggests a lack of social intelligence.
If you recognize these behaviors in your friend, it might be time to be straight with them. By allowing it to continue, you are enabling them.
For people who you don’t know as well, it could be time to limit your interactions with them.
And if you recognize these behaviors in yourself, start eliminating them before they hurt your social life more than they already have.
As always, I hope this post was enjoyable to read and provided some food for thought.
Until next time.