The new emotional intelligence is… prosocial intelligence.


When I was 17, I discovered emotional intelligence. In 2020, I discovered prosocial intelligence, and invented a term for it.

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The ability to evoke positive emotions in interpersonal interactions is one of the underlying skills of prosocial intelligence.

After losing my first job as a lifeguard for making one of my students cry, I picked up Ekhart Tolle’s the power of now and started practicing self-awareness. As you know, this is one of the fundamental skills of emotional intelligence.

Throughout university, my EQ skyrocketed. I started meditating, journaling, and forgiving. My relationships improved.

But, you can only go so far with EQ. There’s no doubt that being self-aware, empathetic, and self-regulated is useful. It transformed my quality of life.

But there’s a level higher.

EQ enables another form of intelligence: PQ (Prosocial Intelligence/Quotient).

To illustrate PQ, let me share one of the highlights of my life.

In 2019, I departed on a whim to Costa Rica to volunteer as a harm reduction staff at a festival. Upon arrival, I started a conversation with a stranger in the customs lineup of the airport. I made a good impression, we shared some laughs, and I got the guy’s contact, which came in handy a week later.

I arrived at my hostel in Jacco beach, my first destination. At my hostel, I met a group of Canadian travellers. I remember hanging around the pool with them, engaging in personal story-telling and introspection. We exchanged vulnerabilities and offered new perspectives. It was a moment to be cherished. It was a human-bonding moment.

A week later, I joined these travellers and stayed with them during another giant festival, this one world-renowned, called Envision Festival.

I did not have a ticket.

So, I messaged the stranger in the airport lineup who I knew was attending the festival. Surprisingly, he offered me a ticket. For free.

I rolled up to the festival with some music and led some bear hugs and singalongs outside the main gates. The main gate ambassador approached me and told me “We need to join forces!”

Epic moments later, I was eating with festival staff and I had earned a name for myself among the marketing team at the festival.

In 2020, they invited me back and I performed on the main stage, opening night, with my co-founder and another changemaker named Gini, a powerhouse entrepreneur and community architect who I had networked with.

So, in the span of three weeks, I networked with some incredible humans, and it led to some incredible opportunities and friendships. AND MEMORIES. At any moment, I can return to these memories and fill myself with excitement for life.

When you are prosocially intelligent, opportunities originating from positive, meaningful human connections fly at your from all directions. My trip is exemplary of this. I had scheduled to be in Costa Rica for one week. I stayed for three, made incredible business connections, attended a world-renowned festival, and had my first appearance on the main stage.

That’s not all. The entire trip, my mood was higher than normal, my physical energy was perked up, and my excitement for life was flying high. When you consistently engage in powerful, expressive interpersonal interactions, your mental and physical health is improved.

These are a few of the benefits of PQ.

So, what the hell is Jacques talking about? Let me define it for you.

PQ is the ability to initiate positive, meaningful human contact. Simple.

Not so fast however! PQ is more technical than that. You must develop a few core competencies before you can transform your social interactions into fuel for social, mental and physical wellbeing. The first is the ability to create internal psychological safety.

Psychological safety equals “a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.” Thank you, Amy Edmondson, for transforming how I relate with humans.

Then, what is internal psychological safety? Well, it’s a translation of your mindset. A growth-oriented, anti-perfectionist mindset enables you to justify taking interpersonal risks regardless of whether it is actually safe or not. On a plane and want to start a singalong? It’s not a safe place to take interpersonal risks.

I did it anyway, and created ‘interpersonal psychological safety.’

This is what Amy is talking about, above. This phenomenon exists within the group, not within your head. This has to do with how the group feels, not how you feel.

This is the second core competency of PQ: the ability to create interpersonal psychological safety. When this is present, suddenly play, fun, expression, and creativity become possible. The depth of your interactions increases. You get to meet the authentic human with whom you are interacting.

A natural extension of these core competencies is the ability to evoke positive emotions in your interactions. Joy, laughter, gratitude, love, excitement. Whenever I feel these emotions, I feel closer to the human with whom I am sharing them.

Positive emotions matter. They reduce stress, increase creativity, and accelerate social-bonding. They also make life exciting. They are healthy.

When you can access positive emotions through human connection, you free yourself from relying on unhealthy sources of joy: shopping, screen entertainment, drugs and alcohol, ‘likes’, (comment below if I am missing any!). The research suggests that you will live longer and happier if you source the majority of your joy from human connection.

I have broken PQ into three core competencies, but there’s one more which relates most closely to leadership: initiating prosocial activities in groups. Standing in an elevator with four strangers? Ask them to share what they are looking forward to. Sitting down at a dinner table with a bunch of acquaintances? Suggest that everyone introduces themselves with their nickname and obsession. Driving with your family or friends to a far-away location? Play a game or sing a song together.

Prosocially intelligent people have a toolkit of activities they initiate in group settings as a means to contribute MASSIVE value. The truth is, many social gatherings are poorly designed, too unstructured, and lack unity. By increasing the amount of closeness and fun in the room, prosocially intelligent people make a name for themselves.

Voila! Those are the four key competencies of PQ. Common among all of them is action.

I believe PQ is a step beyond EQ. You cannot have PQ without EQ. PQ has been the backbone for my mental health, my energy management, and my service-oriented relationship management.

I want to invite you to commit to one behaviour that exercises one of the core competencies I mentioned. Set forth and reap the benefits!

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