Excerpt: 'Social Intelligence,' by Daniel Goleman

Daniel Goleman, the author of the best-selling book "Emotional Intelligence," is back with a new book on social intelligence -- the ability to read other people's cues and then act on them.

In "Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships," Goleman says that our brain is designed to make connections with other humans, and that our relationships have a real biological impact -- whether it's flirting with the opposite sex or succeeding at work.

Social intelligence means being smart in relationships by being empathetic, or being able to sense what others are feeling and their intentions.

Secondly, it means having the social skills to act on that information.

The people with the most social intelligence are those who are good listeners, Goleman says.

You can become a better listener by being motivated and mindful in social situations.

Instead of just saying what you think, stop and listen to the other person, and fine-tune your response to them.

Once you make the effort, and practice the skill, it comes naturally.

The book will be out on Oct. 3. You can read an excerpt below.

The Emotional Economy

One day, late for a meeting in midtown Manhattan, I was looking for a shortcut. So I walked into an indoor atrium on the ground floor of a skyscraper, planning to use an exit door I had spotted on the other side that would give me a faster route through the block.

But as soon as I reached the building's lobby, with its banks of elevators, a uniformed guard stormed over to me, waving his arms and yelling, "You can't walk through here!"

"Why not?" I asked, puzzled.

"Private property! It's private property!" he shouted, visibly agitated.

I seemed to have inadvertently intruded into an unmarked security zone. "It would help," I suggested in a shaky attempt to infuse a bit of reasoning, "if there were a sign on the door saying 'Do Not Enter.' "

My remark made him even angrier. "Get out! Get out!" he screamed.

Unsettled, I hastily beat my retreat, his anger reverberating in my own gut for the next several blocks.

When someone dumps their toxic feelings on us–explodes in anger or threats, shows disgust or contempt–they activate in us circuitry for those very same distressing emotions. Their act has potent neurological consequences: emotions are contagious. We "catch" strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus–and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.

Every interaction has an emotional subtext. Along with whatever else we are doing, we can make each other feel a little better, or even a lot better, or a little worse–or a lot worse, as happened to me. Beyond what transpires in the moment, we can retain a mood that stays with us long after the direct encounter ends–an emotional afterglow (or afterglower, in my case).

These tacit transactions drive what amounts to an emotional economy, the net inner gains and losses we experience with a given person, or in a given conversation, or on any given day. By evening the net balance of feelings we have exchanged largely determines what kind of day–"good" or "bad"–we feel we've had.

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