What is ‘personal intelligence’ and why do I need it?

Some of us are talented at perceiving what makes our friends, family and colleagues tick; some of us less so. There’s a lot of variation in our ability to read other people; to accurately weigh the choices we are presented with in relationships, work, and family life; and to judge whether our personal life goals conflict with each other or go together in a way that benefits us – and those around us.


While there are many ways to be successful without personal intelligence, people who are good at using it enjoy certain advantages over people who are less good at it, other things being equal. These people tend to make better decisions about themselves and other people. Fortunately, it’s something that we can all learn and develop.

Abilities that go with high personal intelligence

People who display high personal intelligence understand themselves and know who they are; they are better able to acknowledge their own limitations. They get the measure of other people more accurately and are more able to make allowances for the quirks and idiosyncrasies of others. Those who are talented in this area are better able to:

  • Predict how people are likely to behave.
  • Predict what people are likely to be good at or find challenging.
  • Understand how their colleagues, friends and acquaintances perceive them — they know the reputation that they have.
  • Understand when to re-evaluate their perceptions of people around them in response to new information.

Many of us possess these abilities in certain amounts – there is wide variation – but when we develop our capacity to solve problems in these areas, it marks us out as being skilled in some crucial ways.

Areas of problem-solving

Problem-solving about personality is a common human anxiety and we are naturally curious about the motivations and mindsets of those around us. What makes this colleague procrastinate about making that urgent client call? What makes your closest friend so abrupt sometimes – don’t they realise how rude they seem?

Some of us are able to identify and synthesise information about personality; we can read clues from behaviour and expression and know how to interpret them. These people can put this into a ‘model’ which allows them to identify motives and recognise defences.

More effective collaboration

So, personal intelligence is partly about relating to other people with agility and finesse and understanding them and their behaviour better. It gives us better and more effective relationships and working environments.

Critically, it helps us collaborate more effectively. It marks us out as:

  • Someone that people want to work with.
  • Someone that it’s great to have on a project team.
  • A crucial player who anticipates situations and outcomes and puts contingencies in place. 

High personal intelligence enables you to close gaps in communication and create more productive environments; you will be listening at a different level, which allows you to gain a deeper understanding, engaging and generating connections as you do so.

It can help you: 

  • Maximise your potential for income by providing clearer definitions of your services that provide a better fit for what your clients are seeking.
  • Define roles and responsibilities to improve decision-making processes.
  • Seek and respond to feedback so that you deepen client relationships and demonstrate your confidence in your value and your adaptability. 

The trust this generates in those around you gives you an edge that leads to improved results.

So, personal intelligence has a lot to do with reading others and adapting your behaviour to get the best out of any given situation. But there is another critical way that it serves you: it helps you make the right choices, plans and goals.

Who you are... and who you want to be

Personal intelligence is about how well you know yourself but it is also about how well you can connect what you are today with the person you want to be in the future.

The more skilled we are at personal intelligence, the better we understand our own values and our own inner compass. We can become aware of our own personal interests and motivations, and understand the skills and competencies that we employ to follow these interests. We see ourselves as we are now and also as the person we want to become.

The more we are able to see ourselves in the future, the more we can paint a realistic picture. Happiness and contentment are not just about doing what feels good right now – in the long term, it hinges on maintaining consistent values and acting in accordance with them.

If your actions don’t move you towards your goal then it has little foundation in reality. You need to be able to understand which actions will take you in the right direction to produce results and what will motivate you to stay on track. Ultimately that increases your chances of making better life decisions, achieving greater success and enhanced enjoyment of life.

If you want to work on your personal intelligence, working with a coach can help. Get in touch with Caroline or use our search tool to find the right coach for you.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Relationships

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals