Step aside, emotional intelligence. There's a new way to measure success: personal intelligence. Motivational coaches refer to it as PI, and for some time now, it has been regarded as an important foundation for nearly every aspect of life, from work to relationships.
American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner defined two types of personal intelligence. The first, intrapersonal intelligence, has to do with the relationship with the self. It is about understanding one's own complex feelings and thoughts, and knowing how to make sense of them as a precursor to one's behaviour. The second, interpersonal intelligence, has to do with one's relationship with others, and the ability to know and communicate with others appropriately in accordance with their moods, temperaments, motivation and intentions.
Winnie Chiu, a registered counsellor and life coach, says that having a high PI not only helps you live a more successful life, it also enables more harmonious connections with others. The higher your PI level, the fewer problems you are likely to have in all your relationships and the less difficulty you will have connecting with others and communicating effectively.
"When you are aware of your feelings, motivations, strengths and weaknesses, it is also likely that you would be committed to personal growth and be interested in fulfilling your purpose in life," Chiu explains. "And if you know how to relate to others and can detect their emotions, intentions and desires, it shows that you are good at verbal and non-verbal communication as well as conflict resolution."
Hong Kong-based career and executive coach Angela Spaxman specialises in the area of leadership development. She says that it is well known and true that, as people rise to higher levels of leadership, their interpersonal skills become more important to their success, while the importance of their technical skills declines. This means that if people wish to be promoted and succeed as managers and leaders, they should learn how to develop their PI.
"Very high levels of PI are essential for the highest levels of leadership success. It is only now that we are learning the connection between very deep intrapersonal abilities and excellence in leadership," Spaxman says.
Like our temperament, PI is something we are all born with. According to Gardner, PI is affected by several factors - culture, the influences of our caregivers, and our experiences during our formative years.
"Your upbringing must have been healthy for your PI to reach its full potential," Chiu adds. "You [are] able to empathise and understand others on the condition that you were exposed to these qualities in your developmental years." However, adds Spaxman, PI is more developed in some people than others. Autistic children, for example, are known to be especially unable to connect with and understand others. Likewise, some people have a natural predilection for understanding themselves and others, and their enjoyment of that exploration can lead them to develop very advanced PI abilities.
Certain occupations might require a higher level of PI than others, such as in Spaxman's job as a career coach. "We have to be very self-aware in order to be able to act as a clean slate for reflecting our clients, and because it helps us to gain expertise in self-improvement so that we can assist our clients to do the same," she says. In contrast, many technical jobs do not require high levels of PI.
Self-examination is a great way to learn and cultivate PI. This task requires a certain level of honesty. Glynis Ferguson, a Hong Kong-based life coach at Freedom Coaching, suggests asking yourself questions relating to your work and management style, the health of your relationships, and your own personal growth and fulfilment.
For example, when you communicate, are you frank, diplomatic or evasive? When you enforce rules, are you compassionate, authoritative or collaborative? When you have to make decisions, are you analytical or intuitive, or do you avoid making them altogether? How good a listener are you? Do you feel like you are living in line with your values? Do you feel dragged down or uplifted by the decisions you make for yourself?
Self-reflective practices such as meditation, yoga and journaling can also help you understand what triggers or causes your responses, as can getting feedback from those close to you.
And when it comes to developing your interpersonal intelligence, observing, socialising and talking with others can help you understand what makes them tick and give you better insight into how they see the world.
In defining the path to workplace, family and personal success, PI is often overlooked. But it is a crucial skill if you want to work and live with others effectively and happily.
"Human beings are social and emotional creatures, after all," says Chiu. "We need to have a connection with others in order to feel love and contentment. And building good relationships with others can contribute to this contentment. But before developing our relationships with others, we need to first connect with ourselves in every sense. Otherwise, it will be difficult to reach out to others."
The Tao sums it up best in this popular saying: "Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power."