SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE: The New Science Of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman

Genres: Psychology, Social Science, Nonfiction

Rating: 3/5

Recommend to: Marketers, Start-up founders, Entrepreneurs, People in sales, Coaches, HR.

Number of pages: 416 pages


This book takes us on a journey on which we learn how we are currently affected by our past, by the people around us, and the thoughts we consciously keep going through in our mind. The foundation of our actions/reactions is our brain (the neurons, their connections…). Our brain changes during our life, based on what we do, with who we do it, what we think, how we feel and how old we are. During our life we lose the neurons we do not use/activate and we gain new by activating new neural pathways (Neuroplasticity). So if you want to change your life, you first need to change your brain/mind. You do that by consciously repeating your wanted reactions to certain situations, and by doing so creating new neural pathways. So that the next time when you are under stress or in as state of fear the amygdala (which is a small primal part of the brain) does not takes control over your prefrontal cortex (which is responsible for decision-making) and you end up reacting to certain situations the way you trained yourself to. For example: when something bad happened at work you used to panic “oh sh#t what now” and you froze, but after some mental training you now react “ok, this happened how do I solve it?”

The good news is that with creating the right neural pathways and training your brain you can conquer fear. All you need to accept is that it takes time, and mental work – it is a process. It takes around 5-6 months for a neuron to be created, “find its place” and fully develop all connections in the brain. In the meantime everything you do affects the development of the neuron and its connections. That is why you must let go of certain things and repeatedly do new things for them to become something normal for you. Everything that is normal for you today was once new to you. 

I found the book very interesting, but at the end a little bit “to long”. By that I mean that at least for me the first 4/5 of the book was great, developing the topic at hand and giving the reader “food for thought” chapter after chapter. At the end the author tried to make the same point over again, but with different cases. I bet he thought he was just elaborating and “cementing” the point of his book into the reader’s mind, but for me it was a bad finish to a good book. Otherwise I loved the topic, I loved that the author included cases and examples which supported his findings and  conclusions in a simple way, but sometimes he had to go deep into biology. 

The most important takeaway from the book is that what and who we are today is a result of our past relationships, environment, way of thinking, and who we will be “tomorrow” depends on what we do and with who we do it “today”.


  • Neuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn into an intimate brain-to-brain link up whenever we engage with another  person.
  • Even our most routine encounters act as regulators in the brain, priming our emotions, some desirable, others not.
  • Our social interactions operate as modulators, something like interpersonal thermostats that continually reset key aspects of our brain function as they orchestrate our emotions. The resulting feelings have far-reaching consequences that ripple throughout our body, sending out cascades of hormones that regulate biological systems from our heart to our immune cells.
  • Our relationships mold not just our experience but our biology.
  • Nourishing relationships have a beneficial impact on our health, while toxic ones can act like slow poison in our body.
  • Our social brain represents the only biological system in our bodies that continually attunes us to, and in turn becomes influenced by, the internal state of people we’re with.
  • Our social interactions even play a role in reshaping our brain through “neuroplasticity”, which means that repeated experiences sculpt the shape, size and number of neurons and their synaptic connections.
  • By repeatedly driving our brain into a given register, our key relationships can gradually mold certain neural circuitry. In effect, being chronically hurt and angered, or being emotionally nourished, by someone we spend time with daily over the course of years can refashion our brain. These discoveries reveal that our relationships have subtle, yet powerful, lifelong impacts on us.
  • We spread our emotions like viruses.
  • When someone dumps their toxic feeling on us – explodes in anger or threats, shows disgust or contempt – they activate in us circuitry for those very same distressing emotions.
  • an emotional economy is a net of inner gains and losses we experience with a given person, or any given day. By evening the net balance of feelings we have exchanged largely determines what kind of day we feel we’ve had.
  • The amygdala extracts emotional meaning from a nonverbal message microsecond before we yet know what we are looking at and mimics that emotion in our own body.
  • An emotion can pass from person to person silently, without anyone consciously noticing.
  • The more two people unconsciously synchronize their movements and mannerism during their interaction the more positively they will feel about their encounter and each other.
  • At an unconscious level, we are in constant dialogue with anyone we interact with.
  • Mirror neurons make emotions contagious and they ensure that the moment someone sees an emotion expressed on your face, they will at once sense that same feeling within themselves. For example when someone sees and act of kindness, it typically stirs in them the impulse to perform one too.
  • To understand what someone else experiences we utilize the same brain wiring that is active during our own experience.
  • Reappraisal alters our emotional response. Just naming for ourselves the emotions we feel can calm the amygdala.
  • Our memories are in part reconstructions. Whenever we retrieve a memory, the brain rewrites it a bit, updating the past according to our present concerns and understandings.
  • Microexpressions reveal how a person truly feels at a certain moment. That is why it is important to train yourself in detecting them. These automatic and fleeting emotional expressions operate via low-road circuitry, which is distinguished by its automaticity and its quickness.
  • Our brain registers social rejection in the very area that activates when we are hurt physically.
  • Social rejection or fearing it is one of the most common causes of anxiety feelings and it depends not so much on having frequent social contacts or numerous relationships as on how accepted we feel, even in just a few key relationships.
  • When trying to understand and get to know other people we must be aware of the projections we make from ourselves. Projection ignores the other person’s inner reality. when we are projecting, we assume that others feel and think as we do.
  • There is a remarkable inclination in human nature to bestow on other people “the same emotions we observe in ourselves, and to find everywhere those ideas which are most present to us in our own minds.” In full-fledged projection, we simply map our world onto someone else’s, with no fit or attunement whatsoever.
  • Genes are designed to be regulated by signals from their immediate surroundings, including hormones from the endocrine system and neurotransmitters in the brain – some of which, in turn, are profoundly influenced by our social interactions. Just as our diet regulates certain genes, our social experiences also determine a distinct batch of such on-off switches.
  • The human brain is designed to change itself in response to accumulated experience.
  • Because the human brain packs so much circuitry (neural pathways) in so little space, it creates continuous pressure to extinguish connections the brain no longer needs, to make space for those it must have.
  • Over the course of childhood and the teen years, the brain will selectively lose half those overbundant neurons, keeping the ones that are used and dropping those that are neglected.
  • The brain and spinal cord contain stem cells that turn into new neurons at the rate of thousands a day. The pace of neuron creation peaks during childhood but continue into old age.
  • Once a new neuron has come into being it migrates to its position in the brain and, over the course of a month, develops to the point where it makes about ten thousand connections to other neurons dispersed throughout the brain. Over the next four months or so, the neuron refines its connections.
  • During this 5-6 month period, personal experience dictates which neurons the newborn cell will connect with. The more often an experience repeats, the stronger the habit becomes, and the denser the resulting neural connectivity.
  • Our brain continue to be redesigned during our lifetime.
  • The longest window for shaping occurs with the prefrontal cortex, which continue to be molded anatomically into early adulthood.
  • Spindle cells help us orchestrate our emotions with our responses. How richly these cells connect scientists propose it depends on influence like family stress or a warm and loving atmosphere.
  • Our interactions play a role in reshaping our brain, through neuroplasticity – the way repeated experiences sculpt the shape, size, and number of neurons and their synaptic connections. Some potent shaping occurs in our key relationships by repeatedly driving our brain into a given register. In effect, being chronically hurt and angered, or emotionally nourished, by someone we spend time with daily over the course of years, can refashion the circuitry of our brain.
  • Nurturing relationships later in life can to some extent rewrite the neural scripts that were encrypted in the brain during childhood.
  • How couples work out their disagreements predicts their children’s conduct.
  • When people are in the grip of distressing emotion the two brain areas most active are the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex. When we’re  feeling cheery, those areas are quiet, while part of the left prefrontal cortex lights up.
  • Activity in the prefrontal area alone tracks our moods: The right side activates when we are upset, the left when we are in good spirits. People with more right-side activity are particularly prone to down or upsetting moments, while those with more activity on the left generally have happier days.
  • Our emotional thermostat does not seem to be fixed at birth. Research links the kind of care we get as children to our brains capacity for joy in adulthood.
  • Given how the brain masters social resilience (through challenges, small amounts of stress….), children need to rehearse for the ups and downs of social life, not experience a steady monotone of delight.
  • Neuroscientists conclude, if youngsters are exposed to stress in small enough amounts they learn to handle it. This mastery becomes imprinted in their neural circuitry, leaving them more resilient when facing stress as adults. Repeating, that sequence of fear-turning-into-calm apparently shapes the neural circuitry for resilience, building an essential emotional capacity.
  • John Gotman argues that when a primary need goes unmet we feel a steady state of dissatisfaction, one that can manifest a subtly as a vague frustration. These needs, when left unattended fester.
  • A research by Cohen shows that an ongoing personal conflict can cause a cold as much as vitamin C deficiency and poor sleep. An occasional argument presents no health hazard.
  • While perpetual arguments are bad for our health, isolating ourselves is worse. Compared to those with a rich web of social connections, those with the fewest close relationships were 4.2 times more likely to come down with the cold.
  • Our social brain makes a crucial distinction between accidental and intentional harm, and it reacts more strongly if it seems malevolent.
  • Surveys of american women show that positive relationships are their major source of satisfaction and well-being throughout life. For american man, on the other hand, positive relationships rate lower in importance than a sense of personal growth or a feeling of independence.
  • Recalling a conflict can trigger the biological shifts that accompanied it, the tendency to mull over one’s troubles takes a physical toll.
  • Skin-on-skin touch is particularly soothing because it primes oxytocin, as do warmth and vibration. Oxytocin acts as a stress hormone “don-regulator”.
  • People whose work made them more upset lost track of their sense of mission and had poorer physical health – and most strongly wanted to leave their job.
  • The more intense the pressure, the more our performance and thinking will suffer.
  • The greater the anxiety we feel, the more impaired is the brain’s cognitive efficiency. High anxiety undermines our capacity to take in new information or to generate fresh ideas. Near-panic is the enemy of learning and creativity
  • Cortisol (stress, anxiety) stimulates the amygdala while it impairs the hippocampus forcing our attention onto the emotions we feel, while restricting our ability to take in new information. A small increase of cortisol enhances learning capabilities, but to much of it impairs recall.
  • New brain cells take a month to mature and four more to fully link to other neurons. During this window the environment determines in part the final shape and function of the cell.
  • When leaders habitually use displays of bad moods to motivate, more work may seem to get done – but it will not necessarily be better work. And relentlessly foul moods corrode the emotional climate, sabotaging the brain’s ability to work at its best.
  • Leadership boils down to a series of social exchanges in which the leader can drive the other person’s emotions into a better or worse state.
  • Another powerful reason for leaders to be mindful of what they say to employees: People recall negative interactions with a boss with more intensity, in more detail, and more often than they do positive ones.
  • The best bosses are people who are trustworthy, empathic and connected, who make us feel calm, appreciated, and inspired.
  • Our parents form our basic template for a secure base in childhood, but others continue to add to it as we go through life. In school, our teachers fill that position, at work, our bosses. Secure bases are sources of protection, energy and comfort, allowing us to free our own energy.
  • having a secure base at work is crucial for high performance.
  • A leader should not protect employees from every tension or stress. Resilience grows from a modicum of discomfort generated by necessary pressure at work. But since too much stress overwhelms, an astute leader acts as a secure base by lessening overwhelming pressure if possible or at least not making them worse.
  • Do not risk your teams interpersonal chemistry with hiring someone. No matter who they may be otherwise if their interpersonal chemistry is not good with the teams that person is not worth it.
  • By attending to someone’s feelings, the leader helps metabolize them, so the person can move on rather then continuing to seethe.
  • When dealing with angry or distressed people, the leader need not necessarily agree with the person’s position or reaction. But simply acknowledging their point of view, then apologizing if necessary or otherwise seeking a remedy, defused some of the toxicity, rendering destructive emotions less harmful.
  • Because emotions are so contagious, every boss at every level needs to remember he or she can make matters either worse or better.
  • As people from hostile groups work together toward a common goal, they end up liking one another.


Thinking Fast and Slow Daniel Kahneman
Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
Trust Covey



Thank you for your time. I hope you have found this book review helpful. Talk to you in the comment section.

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