Intrapersonal Skills & Intelligence
Did you upgrade your qualifications but forget about intrapersonal skills? Unaware of their critical role in your career? This guide explains why they matter.
Did you upgrade your qualifications but forget about intrapersonal skills? Unaware of their critical role in your career? This guide explains why they matter.
Today’s job requirements are so complex and all-encompassing that demonstrating your professional capacities is not enough. To successfully compete in the modern job market, professionals now need to have excellent soft skills too. We all diligently pencil terms like teamwork, flexibility, excellent verbal communication, active listening, leadership, and co-operative into our resumes and cover letters, as our interpersonal skills. But what about those introspective-related qualities like emotional stability, concentration, resilience, etc., also referred to as intrapersonal skills? Do you mention them? Are you well-versed in the language of intrapersonal intelligence?
Let’s dig more deeply into the subject and try to understand: is intrapersonal intelligence just a new fad or are intrapersonal skills really crucial to our success in the workplace and personal life?
What About Interpersonal Vs Intrapersonal Skills?
There are so many new terms and definitions about similar phenomena that the public mind fuses them together, thinking they are all the same. ‘Intrapersonal’ and ‘interpersonal’ may share some common sounds but are in fact very different. Both refer to affect and emotion, inter- means ‘between’ while intra- means ‘within’. Thus, the main difference is in me vs them.
What Are Intrapersonal Skills?
The list of intrapersonal skills can be endless. See for yourself:
- Personal Responsibility
- Knowing Your Limitations & Strengths
- Mastering & Controlling Emotions
- Taking Calculated Risks
- Being Calm in Stressful Conditions
- Forgiveness of People and Towards Negative Experiences
- Setting Priorities in Life
- Ability to Learn
- Problem Solving Techniques
- Strong Memory
- Creativity & Spontaneity
- Decision Making
- Values & Morals
As you can see, many intrapersonal skills start with ‘self’ because they are needed to handle one’s relationship with themself. How well you can deal with your thoughts, emotions, desires and anything that drives, motivates or discourages you determines how developed your intrapersonal skills are.
Thus, the basis for intrapersonal activity is introspection and self-awareness. If you know that some situations, types of people, or events frustrate you and drive down your motivation, would it be effective to avoid them? Probably yes, for some. But a self-aware and intrapersonally skilled person would try to address such issues so that their quality of life and work will not be compromised. Knowing yourself and being able to control yourself helps you to find motivation for your projects and activities, overcome frustrations, and find inspiration.
What Is Intrapersonal Intelligence?
It was the developmental psychologist Howard Gardner who first singled out a separate type of intelligence in charge of intrapersonal skills. Gardner posits that people with well-developed intrapersonal intelligence know and understand themselves very well and can share that knowledge with other people, helping them to boost their own self-awareness. Among the professions that excel in understanding the way human psychology functions are philosophers, writers, poets, and psychologists. In addition to their knowledge of human psychology, they often zoom in on their own feelings, emotions, and experiences. Other examples of intrapersonal intelligence careers are coaches, personal and career counselors, criminologists, instructional designers, etc.
Gardner was inspired by the writings of English writer Virginia Woolf who would describe her innermost feelings with great detail and precision. For example, Woolf would refer to monotone chores and uneventful days as the “cotton wool of existence.” Such precise, apt descriptions often help readers identify what they feel and experience and hence deal with what they perceive as uncomfortable in their life.
Keep in mind that none of us has only one type of intelligence developed. As an author of the theory of multiple intelligences, Gardner argues that personal intelligences enhance each other and can be developed. Finding the leading types of your own intelligence is among the best tips for entry-level graduates.
Intrapersonal Intelligence Strategies
People with strongly developed intrapersonal intelligence can find it more difficult to perform well in an intensely social atmosphere, which basically are many offices and workplaces in large corporations. They are advised to:
- Work in quiet places
- Work alone
- Talk to yourself about important ideas and key concepts
- Keep a journal
Why Are Intrapersonal Skills Important for Your Job?
Can you use intrapersonal skills in the workplace? Gardner defines intelligence as ‘the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural settings.’ Let’s apply this to intrapersonal skills. We deal with our inner psychological issues on a daily basis. If we need skills to solve our professional tasks and be able to type, code, design, negotiate, etc. Similarly, we require skills to address our emotional states, oppressive thoughts, swaying moods, arising fears, and any other issues that relate to the human inner life.
Referring specifically to the skills required in modern jobs, researchers single out two broad intrapersonal skills: adaptability and self-management. Adaptability is one’s ability and willingness to handle stress, different communication styles, and different personalities, to cope with new tasks, innovations, technologies, changes, and emergencies, and physically adapt to various work environments. Self-management is one’s ability to work autonomously and remotely, motivate oneself, and monitor one’s own process, to develop new, work-related skills, and learn new information.
Intrapersonal skills can be even further distilled to an umbrella skill of self-regulation. A self-regulating individual not only guides themself in daily tasks, monitoring their own behavior, and becoming flexible when needed, they also regulate their feelings and emotions.
How to Develop Intrapersonal Skills
The problem with intrapersonal intelligence is that they are not taught in an organized manner. Intrapersonal skills are developed. You learn them just as children learn math and English.
Before you decide to intentionally do something related to your self-awareness, self-regulation, and retrospection, you need to ‘take stock’ of what you have: your innate qualities and characteristics that you possess and can hardly be changed. Look at some of your traits as “raw materials” and act by including them into the equation.
Each individual has their own set of cognitive processes, referred to as ‘executive functions,’ that they develop early on to control their behavior, achieve goals, and learn new things. Executive functions, like inhibition, working memory, and shifting, determine how you will self-regulate and address different issues such as stopping ongoing thoughts, easily searching and retrieving information from your memory, and shifting between different tasks, moods, thoughts, or mental states. Self-regulation is based on these basic capacities of an individual.
How does information above translate into concrete acts of self-regulation?
Take a look at a list of processes you usually go through when you accomplish a task. You start with an idea or a formulated task. You evaluate it and consider your options and paths of performance. Then you formulate a plan and carry it out. After that, you assess the result. From a self-regulation perspective, you can find hindrances at each step of the process and employ self-regulation to avoid those hindrances or solve arising issues and reach your goal.
Given the considerable energy and effort required for self-regulation, it is great if you can arrange your working process in such a way that you can successfully avoid distractions and gain momentum towards achieving a goal.
How can you improve your self-regulation?
- Establish a routine. In college, if you keep up with your schedule of assignments and seminar participation, you will never get a bad grade. In social interactions, if you routinely communicate with people without avoiding social forms of communication, you will develop tools and tricks to be socially successful; if not, you’ll be socially awkward. In health maintenance, if you have a healthy diet, do not overeat, and exercise regularly, you will be relatively healthy. Therefore, if you want to excel in the workplace, establish a routine of step-by-step processes and stick to it, making small changes when needed.
- Develop useful habits. If your job requires you to be organized and that is not your strongest suit, developing a habit of making grocery lists or cleaning the kitchen before going to bed will help you instill organization skills into yourself.
- Choose a working environment. Self-regulation can be emotionally draining. That is why in some cases you can arrange your work environment in such a way that you pick up cues rather than intentionally regulate yourself. For example, people repeat behaviors of others more eagerly than making a conscious effort to draw on self-regulation. That is why some people find it easier to be productive in an open space office or a café than at their homes where they live with their spouses and children. Picking a cue in the environment, people find it easier to work when everyone around them works too.
The above-mentioned directions can be broken down into smaller habits.
- Address negative self-talk. The best way to undermine your performance and compromise your well-being is by being too harsh with yourself. You need to learn to turn off your inner critic. There are several tactics to do so:
- Don’t catastrophize. If something negative happened, you can find a way out of it.
- Look at the facts rather than make assumptions.
- Think like a friend of yourself.
- Use feedback to improve your work rather than to castigate yourself for mistakes.
- Look at a problem from a different angle. Shift your perspective.
- Take care of yourself. For many, self-care associates primarily with spa days and pampering. Although anyone can enjoy an occasional facial or foot massage, in terms of intrapersonal intelligence you should regard taking care of yourself as an integral part of your day. You cannot outperform at work at the expense of sleep and health.
- Get rest and eat well. These are basic recommendations but they are the foundation. You may develop some specific rules like no screens before bedtime so that your melanin levels are not fluctuating.
- Exercise. You need to move. Depending on your age, some people can afford to move less than others. However, if you don’t like working out at the gym, take a daily stroll across the park at the very least. Remember that the older you are, the more unintentional physical activity you should get. If 20-year olds can get away with just 20 minutes of brisk walking a day, 40-year olds must make it 40-50 minutes.
- Take vacations. Probably not everyone can afford to have a vacation every 3-4 months but if you feel that you are on the verge of a breakdown, you better carve out at least a few days of complete rest from social media and work.
- “Me time.” Some call it meditation. Others want to have half an hour in the morning to themselves when they read a book or browse their phone. Decide what you need the most and find time to get it.
- Learn to say NO. We all know about the superpower to say no. But some imagine it mostly being applied to negative people and obnoxious requests. However, you may notice that it is useful to say no to some unnecessary information and some mindless time on social media. Figure out what exactly puts too much stress on you, and do not overextend yourself in an unnecessary manner.
- Learn to focus. It may sound like a huge task. Easier said than done. But here are elements that can be helpful in this larger skill:
- Be conscious of what you do. Try not to do things mechanically.
- Set clear goals. If you break down a goal into smaller chunks, you’ll find it easier to concentrate because you’ll know what outcome you expect at each stage.
- Remove distractions. Our brain requires some amount of energy to start a task. If you interrupt a running task with checking new messages or scrolling a social media feed, you put your brain through more work when it tries to get back to the initial task. It weakens your concentration. Therefore, you can easily increase your concentration if you turn off notifications on electronic devices.
- Set time limits. It also helps concentration if you work without distractions for a chunk of time and then allow yourself a break. Then repeat the cycle.
- Repeat in cycles. People get used to many things. If you establish schedules and routines, You’ll find it easier to follow them over time simply because you get used to it.
- Embrace a growth mindset.Some people are terrified of changes within themself; others do not believe that they can change. Stanford professor Carol Dweck suggests we all develop a ‘not yet’ mentality. It is not that you failed, but rather that you have not yet achieved something. You have stepped on a learning curve and you are moving towards a goal. You are not frozen in the ‘now’ where you are lacking something or unable to do something.
How to Develop Intrapersonal Intelligence
Although intrapersonal skills may not have an immediate effect on your work, it is worth your time and effort to develop introspection and cultivate intrapersonal intelligence.
Intrapersonal intelligence refers not only to one’s capacity to sense a variety of feelings and emotions but also one’s ability to identify and clearly articulate them. Start reading fiction with well-developed characters who explore their innermost depths and you’ll be able to recognize your urges, doubts, and driving desires. Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, Margaret Atwood, J. D. Salinger, Sylvia Plath, Viktor E. Frankle, Anne Frank, Elizabeth Gilbert, Elizabeth Strout, Haruki Murakami are well known for their deeply introspective prose, but the list of introspective writers is extensive.
- Keep a diary
At first, you can jot down your thoughts and emotions in the moment. Over time, you’ll find it intriguing to read what preoccupied your thoughts and what goals you had.
Second, you can track your progress in terms of distinguishing emotional nuances you probably were unaware of before or could not find words for. Spotting apt phrases that fit your emotional states has a deeply liberating effect.
Third, journaling helps you identify weak spots you previously failed to notice. For example, while reading through a series of entries where you complain to yourself about obstacles at work, you may pinpoint an exact reason for the lack of motivation you have been experiencing lately.
- Enroll in a therapy
Therapy is an ultimate method of developing introspection and self-awareness. People sometimes lie to themselves and cannot address a specific issue that troubles them. The help of a therapist can make your cultivation of intrapersonal intelligence more effective, showing you recurring patterns of behavior and thought.
- Look at Yourself from a New Angle
Try something new. Sometimes little changes in your life will help you understand something new about yourself or calibrate your previous self-knowledge.
- Pick a new hobby
- Enroll in an acting class
- Go on a hiking trip
- Find new walking routes to your workplace
As you can see, the demand for intrapersonal intelligence is grounded in practical considerations. By encouraging people to cultivate their intelligences, society allows for a wider range of talents and abilities to emerge. Developing intrapersonal skills improves your well-being and aligns your inner self more with your outer presentation.
If, however, having read this article you are still baffled by what to do work-wise with intrapersonal intelligence, remember about the paradox that recruiters and prospective employers come across regularly when they rely on candidates’ and employees’ self-assessment. If intrapersonal intelligence requires one to have good self-awareness and one lacks self-awareness, then one’s responses about one’s self-motivation and self-regulation are meaningless.
Only seeing you in action will show the employer what intrapersonal skills you really have. In turn, you can always adjust your behavior according to new knowledge you gain about yourself. Ultimately cultivating your intrapersonal intelligence will improve your career choices in any field.
The bottom line is that you as an employee should, first and foremost, have professional skills and experiences because without them the employer will not get interested in your soft skills.