Performance 7 min read

What Is Interpersonal Intelligence And How To Develop It?

by Shannon Terrell November 1, 2018

Interpersonal intelligence is a skill we all possess. The question is: how well developed is your interpersonal intelligence — and are you able to use it to help solve conflicts?

We’ll explore Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to learn how interpersonal intelligence works. Then, we’ve got three tips to help you supercharge your own interpersonal intelligence to help improve your empathy, insight, and communication skills.

What Is Gardner’s Interpersonal Intelligence?

In 1983, American development psychologist, Howard Gardner, proposed his theory of multiple intelligences.

For far too long, intelligence had been measured by way of IQ points and other standardized tests. And Gardner just didn’t think the traditional methods of measuring intelligence were cutting it.

He believed human intelligence was multidimensional. And that’s when he began to develop his theory of multiple intelligences.

One of that intelligence? Interpersonal intelligence.

intrapersonal skills

What Is Interpersonal Intelligence?

Definition of interpersonal:

Interpersonal (‘inter’ – ‘between’) – refers to communication or interaction that occurs between people.

So, interpersonal intelligence is the ability to effectively communicate with others. It relates to a person’s talent for relating to and understanding the motives and actions of others.

People with interpersonal intelligence are highly interested in those around them. They’re often compassionate, empathetic, and are adept at deciphering both verbal and non-verbal communication.

Interpersonal intelligence is often paired with its sister intelligence: intrapersonal intelligence. And while the two are related, they’re also very different.

What Is Intrapersonal Intelligence?

Intrapersonal intelligence is another of Gardner’s types of intelligence.

While interpersonal intelligence describes a person’s relationship with others, intrapersonal intelligence describes a person’s relationship with themselves, ‘intra’ means ‘within’.

Those with intrapersonal intelligence are highly self-aware. They’re able to easily recognize and decipher their own motives, desires, and actions. They are often introspective and excel at self-reflection.


Individuals with intrapersonal intelligence thrive in careers as psychologists, counselors, psychologists, and spiritual leaders.

What Are The 7 Types Of Intelligence?

Besides interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, what other forms of intelligence does Gardner’s theory include?

The 7 core types of intelligence Gardner proposed were:

  1. Linguistic intelligence
  2. Logical intelligence
  3. Kinesthetic intelligence
  4. Spatial intelligence
  5. Musical intelligence
  6. Interpersonal intelligence
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence

interpersonal skills

How Do You Develop Interpersonal Intelligence?

Everyone has their own unique brand of interpersonal intelligence. And like a muscle, if you want to improve your interpersonal intelligence, you’ll need to give it some exercise.

It’s not about mental intelligence, it’s about mental fitness.

– Jim Kwik, Author of Mindvalley’s Superbrain Program

Strengthening and supporting your interpersonal intelligence can help you become an excellent communicator. You’ll be able to connect with others on a deeper and more profound level.

And don’t be surprised if your boss takes notice and throws a leadership role your way. The benefits of improved interpersonal intelligence are boundless.

Here are three key strategies for improving your interpersonal intelligence.

1. Practice Empathy

One of the best ways to improve your interpersonal intelligence is by practicing empathy. Simply put: practice putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

It’s not easy to communicate with others if you’re unable to acknowledge their point of view. If you’re having trouble connecting with someone, take a moment to try putting yourself in their shoes. See things from their perspective. Everyone’s got a story, and everyone is fighting an invisible battle.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and you’ll be able to appreciate who they are and what they’re dealing with on a deeper and more intimate level.

2. Become An Active Listener

Active listening is a huge component of interpersonal intelligence. Becoming an active listener means acknowledging when someone else has the floor. It means showing that you’re attentive, receptive, and respectful.

The next time you’re chatting with a coworker or family member, try practicing active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and most important of all: not interrupting.

Too often, we’re so eager to interject our own two cents that we’re not really paying attention to what’s being said to us. The next conversation you have, do your best not to interrupt and let the speaker know you’re really and truly hearing what they have to say.

3. Be An Active Member Of The Team

In our daily lives, we participate in all sorts of teams. Maybe you’re part of a work team. Perhaps you play a sport or hobby. Even our families are a type of team.

Being an active team member goes beyond the fulfillment of your basic duties. A real team player cares about the performance of the entire team, not just their own.

Here are a few strategies for becoming a more active team member:

  • Acknowledge the contributions of others
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Don’t be afraid to take the lead
  • Anticipate the needs of your teammates
  • Maintain an optimistic outlook

All these strategies can help you improve your interpersonal skills. And the more you use them, the more you’ll benefit!

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Who do you know that has excellent interpersonal intelligence? Tell us in the comments below!

by Shannon Terrell
Shannon Terrell is a writer based in Toronto, Canada. She revels in the thrill of exploration, whether it be new cultures, new landscapes, or new ways to bring on the happy. If she’s not hiking or practicing yoga, she probably has her nose in a book.

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