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Management is nothing more than motivating other people. Lee Iacocca

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Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships

This book sheds light on the links between social behavior and the way the brain works.

Author(s): Daniel Goleman

Publisher: Bantam

Date of publication: 2007

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A few years back, Daniel Goleman authored two successful books on emotional intelligence - defined by our ability to listen to our emotions and use them constructively for our own and others’ benefit.
This book goes one step further. The objective is to shed light on the links between social behavior and the way the brain works, supported by the most recent discoveries in neurology and brain imagery. Although the book is long and dense, it remains readable. Rather than a list of formulas, the author proposes a general review of the topic, pleading for the establishment of rich and intense human relationships at every stage of life. The book may seem a bit disorganized, and some chapters are more interesting than others, but the supporting research is impressive, and the novel and sometimes provocative conclusions will surely give the reader food for thought.
The fundamental message is that we are wired to be social animals, and our interpersonal relationships directly affect the development of our brains. Chapter 10 emphasizes that our social IQ is not determined at birth. Some individuals may be genetically better equipped for good human relations than others, but the environment enables – or not - the expression of this potential.
Among the examples of the brain’s “social functions,” imitation plays a central role. Chapters 1 to 4 show that empathy, or the ability to share the feelings of others, is founded upon this natural tendency, explaining why emotions are contagious.
The author focuses on the largely subconscious nature of the brain’s social functions in support of his assertion that we must learn to listen to our instincts (Chapters 5 and 6).
Analyzing the social function of the brain provides interesting input about stress management. Indeed, stress is primarily a social phenomenon generated by human interactions and can be managed with suitable behavior. This message must be placed in the context of the three types of relationships presented in chapter 13, i.e., distant, anxious and well-balanced.
Among the other developments of the book that will interest managers, chapters 7, 8, 9 and 20 explain cases of “social pathologies,” in which brain defects cause behavior like narcissism, Machiavellianism, etc. Less pathological, but more frequently encountered in business, is the “us against them” syndrome covered in chapter 21, which divides a group into rival clans.