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Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships Hardcover – September 26, 2006
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From Scientific American
We all recognize a special capacity that humans havesome more so than othersto connect with others in a deep and direct way. We see this quality expressed by a performer revving a crowd, a doctor healing a patient or a mother putting a child to sleep. To orchestrate these tasks, a person must sense and stimulate the reactions and mood of another. In 1995 Daniel Goleman, a Harvard Universitytrained psychologist and writer for the New York Times, published Emotional Intelligence, in which he discussed the human ability "to manage our own emotions and inner potential for positive relationships." Now he goes a step further. In Social Intelligence, he enlarges his scope to encompass our human abilities to connect with one another. "We are wired to connect," Goleman says. "Neuroscience has discovered that our brains very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us affect the brainand so the bodyof everyone we interact with, just as they do us." Each encounter between people primes the emotions. This neurological pas de deux stimulates our nervous systems, affecting hormones, heart rate, circulation, breathing and the immune system. Goleman peppers his discourse with anecdotes to illustrate the power of social intelligence. From the countertop of Rosie Garcia, a multitasking baker in New Yorks Grand Central Terminal, to the tantrum-tainted class of a Texas teacher, he shows how social sensitivity and wisdom can profoundly reshape conflicts. In one encounter in Iraq, a quick-witted U.S. commander turned a Muslim mobs threats into laughter when he ordered his soldiers to kneel, lower rifl es and smileaverting a potentially fatal clash. Goleman deftly discusses relevant neural pathways, including the thalamus and amygdala, which together regulate sensory and arousal stimuli. He speaks of spindle cells, which rapidly process social decisions; of mirror neurons, which sense anothers movements; of dopamine neurons, which react to pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters that flow freely while two lovers gaze. The authors introductory tour through this emerging research landscape helps readers grasp core concepts of social neuroscience, illustrating abstractions with poignant anecdotes, without excessive jargon. Goleman also explains how such research may influence our lives. Given our socially reactive brains, we must "be wise," he says, and be aware of the ways that our moods influence the biology of each life we touch.
"Passionately argued … lucid."—Publishers Weekly
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Drawing on numerous studies, Goleman examines how our brains are wired for altruism, compassion, concern and rapport. The skills of social intelligence include the social awareness of empathy, listening, and social cognition. He demonstrates how the power of social interaction influences mood and brain chemistry and discusses the "toxicity" of insult and unpleasant social experience and the positive effects of neurochemicals that are released in loving relationships and caregiving.
He shows how social sensitivity and wisdom can profoundly reshape conflicts. In one encounter in Iraq, a quick-witted U.S. commander turned a Muslim mob's threats into laughter when he ordered his soldiers to kneel, lower rifles and smile - averting a potentially fatal clash. Given our socially reactive brains, we must "be wise," he says, and be aware of the ways that our moods influence the biology of each life we touch.
Having said that, I would highly recommend the book to anyone who wishes to learn more about why we do what we do. There are some very valuable lessons that have application in everyday life. For example, Goleman talks about how fear in social situations engages the the flight or fight part of the brain, overriding the cognitive part. He gives everyday examples of how this shows up in our daily lives. The teacher randomly calling on students in the classroom can evoke social fear, shutting down the cognitive/learning part of the brain.
Goleman deals with numerous other social situations in life - love, anger, empathy, prejudices, crime and punishment. His insights are sharp and easy to understand. Some are real eye-openers.
The book is long, some 334 pages with 65 pages of notes. This means that the concepts set forth in the book have been well researched and he provides the sources for those who wish to do additional research on a particular point of view.
If you have any interest in why people do what they do, then this is an important book. Just realize that it requires some thought to read and grasp all the concepts put forth in the book.