Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.

I sometimes joke that people-smart children go to school for their friends and teachers get in their way. People laugh. It’s not exactly true. It’s close, though.

People smart, or interpersonal intelligence, is the seventh of our eight intelligences I’m presenting in this series of posts. As with the other smarts, everyone has at least some of it. It may be your strength and your child’s strength. Or, it may not be.

Those of us with people-smart strengths think with other people. We talk even more when we get excited. You know you’re people smart if your ideas are clarified when you hear yourself explain them to someone else. You may not even need a person’s reactions and comments for that clarification to occur. But, the dialogue that might take place is rich and meaningful to you.

I’ve met many people-smart people like me who admit that just being with people stimulates their thinking. We may have great insights when surrounded by people even if we’re not talking with them. There’s just something about being in the presence of people that seems to enhance our creativity and intellectual energy.

It’s more than being good with people, although that’s always true of people-smart people. When you tell your children that they’re good friends and comfortable talking with a variety of people because they’re smart in a certain way and not just friendly, it’s empowering. Everyone wants to be smart!

Intelligences never work alone – they always show up with others. Children with word-smart and people-smart strengths will talk more than children with just word-smart strengths. This combination means we talk all the time – sometimes to ourselves, sometimes inside our head and no one knows we’re talking, and sometimes to others. This is me. Is it you? Your oldest or middle child?

Children with picture-smart and people-smart strengths may enjoy drawing and designing with others more than by themselves. They may compare ideas and stimulate each other’s creativity and even design things together. In the same way, logic-smart children who are also people-smart will explore and experiment together.

These children will probably do better studying with people than studying alone. For instance, we can practice vocabulary words with them rather than expecting them to stay focused on this activity alone in their bedroom. Group work, brainstorming, freedom to think and question, teaching others, and role plays can all help.

Positive and healthy uses of being people smart include motivating and encouraging others. People-smart people can usually correct others well, counsel and teach them, and build consensus. They will often have excellent friendship skills. They may become teachers, counselors, pastors, negotiators, politicians, lawyers, social workers, receptionists, and personnel directors.

The classic negative use of being people smart is to manipulate others. This is because they’re able to read and respond to body language. When used in healthy ways, we can hug people who look sad, stay away from people who are “communicating” they need their space, and question if we can help people who look confused. But, when used in unhealthy ways, we can get people to behave the way we want them to.

When asking children how many of them have gotten parents to say “yes” when they know they should have said “no” about 75% of them raise their hands as they laugh. I then challenge them to never do it again. There’s immediate silence when I ask them to not use something for harm that their Creator gave them as a good thing. They definitely think about it.

How has people smart shown up in your life? What about your children? Is it one to awaken? To increase or focus? I wish you great success!

[If you want to know similar details for the first six smarts in this series of blogs, please see them here: word smart, logic smart, picture smart, music smart, body smart, and nature smart.]