How to develop intrapersonal intelligence and why it matters

a woman being aware of her emotional state is one way of having intrapersonal intelligence

How well do you know yourself? Are you in tune with what you feel? Do you know what you want?

The answers to these questions relate to your level of intrapersonal intelligence. This type of emotional intelligence refers to how well you see yourself and even how you talk to yourself.1

When we know ourselves, we're better at accepting our strengths and weaknesses. This can become the inspiration for personal growth and fuel our determination in times of challenge.

Everyone has intrapersonal intelligence. In reality, most of us could use some help in further developing our intrapersonal skills. Keep reading to get a deeper understanding of intrapersonal intelligence, how you can develop it, and why it's a vital workplace skill.

Table of contents
The history of intelligence theory
The importance of intrapersonal intelligence
Why you need it in the workplace (and in life)
How intrapersonal intelligence affects your career
We can develop our intrapersonal intelligence
For some people it comes more naturally
Before we go…

The history of intelligence theory

Howard Gardner, a Harvard developmental psychologist, proposed his theory of eight types of intelligence in 1983.2

Intrapersonal intelligence, one of the eight intelligence types, is a relatively new concept in the modern scientific community. It's generally not explored or utilized in our education systems and business environments. For the most part, organizations and individuals still cling to assessment systems, like the Myers-Briggs.

After further research, in 2009 Gardner expanded his theory to include a ninth intelligence known as existential intelligence.3

The importance of intrapersonal intelligence

Intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence were two of Howard Gardner's types of intelligence. Both pertain to personal relationships - one with the self, and one with other people. When used in tandem, they can lead to excellent self-awareness. These people are seen as wise and reflective, capable of effective communication among other social and leadership attributes.

Intrapersonal intelligence goes a step further than emotional intelligence. It's understanding what is happening in your mind and being aware of your emotions.4 You're able to think and communicate clearly. Because of this, you'll excel in solving problems and interacting with others.

Historical figures and well-known thought leaders like Steve Jobs, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Socrates are examples of intrapersonal thinkers.

Why you need it in the workplace (and in life)

Connecting with others, whether it's colleagues, friends, or family, is a part of creating a meaningful life.

People who have developed their intrapersonal intelligence are good with intrapersonal communication. They're aware of their thoughts and understand that what they think directly impacts their attitude toward life and how they feel about themselves.

With that comes the understanding of what you need to do to change your circumstances or achieve specific goals. In other words, you're in sync with yourself and capable of evolving as your life and circumstances change.

If your self-talk takes on a negative tone, it's having the awareness to change your thoughts to more supportive ones. So instead of telling yourself 'of course, I made another mistake, I never get it right', you might say, 'I made a mistake and I learned from it.'

When you know yourself, you don't buy into external influences. You can accept criticism for what it is: a valuable opportunity to improve, or toxic comments that must be ignored. The criticism doesn't affect you personally. That's because, in self-understanding, you can better understand others. You can recognize when someone is offering helpful personal feedback and when they're malicious.

This type of intelligence can involve self-kindness. Therefore, look at others without judgment and respond without fear, anger, or defensiveness. In all, that makes us better colleagues, team members, leaders, partners, and friends.

How intrapersonal intelligence affects your career

Intrapersonal intelligence begins on a personal level before it impacts our career goals. Your relationship with yourself is a life-long process. As you become more in tune with your own wants, needs, likes, and dislikes, you can recognize the same in others.

You'll connect more easily with team members, and that will make you a more understanding and compassionate leader. Your interpersonal communication will improve. Instead of feeling threatened by your work environment, which leads to either defensiveness or autocratic leadership, you'll bring vital kindness into business decisions.

Knowing your own and your team's capabilities also allows for more realistic strategic thinking and calculated decision making, which delivers quality results. People with well-developed intrapersonal intelligence are more inclined to see the big picture, something that's a vital asset to any successful entrepreneur.

Intrapersonal intelligence examples

Here is an example of how our professional lives can be impacted when we're in the wrong career or role.

You're pretty bright, took a careers test, and went on to study in the recommended field. Now here you are, dragging yourself to work every day, dreading the drudgery of your responsibilities while keeping a smile on your face. At night you toss and turn, wondering how you'll achieve your career goals if you hate what you're doing. You're ashamed to think that you've descended into a TGIF person who suffers Monday morning blues. That wasn't your intention.

If you are high on intrapersonal intelligence, you won't toss and turn. You'll take a realistic introspective journey through how you've ended up feeling this way. This is a calm, solo, and frank excursion through the passages of your mind, identifying where the issues and problems lie. You'll come up with solutions and realistic goals regarding what you need to do to change your situation to achieve the goals you were so enthusiastic about. It might mean a complete change in career, or discussing a departmental move with your manager.

In your personal life, a great example is wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle. There are fashionable fads that everyone's doing. You want to fit in, so you follow. You buy a mountain bike, join a gym, and down endless raw fruit and veggie juice combos. But you hate it, and the mountain bike starts to gather dust, the gym subscription is a waste of money, and your juicer stands idle. You feel guilty and like a failure.

When you know yourself, you don't follow the crowd (or the guru). You know you're not a failure; you just don't like those things. You ask yourself deeper questions to figure out a healthy lifestyle that works for you, like eating whole foods, taking walks, and spending time meditating daily. Because you want to achieve your goal, you're disciplined and make time to do what you must do every day.

We can develop our intrapersonal intelligence

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences proposes that people are not born with all of the intelligence they will ever have.5 This means we can all improve our cognitive skills and experience increased self-awareness at any time in our life.

Our mission at F4S is to make human development accessible. We know that you can improve yourself and reach your goals. With our self-development platform, we make peak performance and wellbeing possible, especially during challenging times.

Most people don't have the know-how to identify their personal characteristics through intrapersonal introspection accurately. F4S is an excellent people analytics platform that helps you do just that.

After completing the free online assessment, you'll uncover your highest motivations. And you'll know where your blind spots exist, and you'll get a detailed explanation of how they impact your career. In understanding your unique range of abilities, you'll gain a deep understanding of your psyche.

F4S dashboard shows your unique traits
F4S dashboard

One of the best ways to achieve this is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to internal and external experiences as they happen in the present moment without judgment. It's a progression of viewing and responding to situations rather than reacting to them.

In our busy and often stressed lives, many people run from one responsibility to the next. There's little thought of how they feel, are perceived or what impact their life has on them or others. Living in survival mode impacts every aspect of our lives and careers negatively.

Becoming more mindful will automatically lead to making better decisions, identifying what makes us unhappy and what we enjoy, and improving our relationships with others. Mindfulness will also expose negative self-talk, unnecessary worry, people who take advantage of us and so many other unnecessary burdens.

Another option is to start one of our free AI coaching sessions, which is backed by more than 20 years of research. We have personalized coaching programs to support more than 1,000 goals, ranging from Increase EQ, Trust Your Gut, and Reflection & Patience.

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For some people it comes more naturally

As with all talents, we have high levels of some and a lesser degree of others. Intrapersonal intelligence is no exception. Some people innately have well-developed qualities of introspection, self-analysis, and a well-defined vision of who they are and what they want. These skills are often identified in early childhood.

People naturally gifted with intrapersonal intelligence are proficient at self-analysis and figuring out their own feelings, motivations, and goals. They are characteristically introspective and regularly evaluate themselves to find understanding. Often intuitive and introverted, they seek to learn independently through self-reflection.

Many of them keep a diary, journal, or personal blog because it helps them track their own progress and learn more about themselves. They also tend to be very intuitive and can help other people understand themselves by being able to predict reactions in others. Because they know themselves, they can also predict their own responses, meaning that they can circumvent negative situations by opting for a different course of action.

Typical characteristics

Typical characteristics include:

  • Always looking for ways to improve themselves
  • Learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them
  • Express themselves through creativity
  • Know what they want and how to get it
  • Apply what they learn to their own life
  • High level of self-awareness
  • Wants to understand the "self"
  • Need time alone for reflection
  • Inclined to entrepreneurship
  • A degree of introversion
  • Aware of their strengths
  • Work well on their own
  • Highly independent
  • Self-motivated
  • Very intuitive
  • Philosophical

Intrapersonal intelligence career choices

We tend to get drawn to following a career in something we're good at. If we're good at something we tend to enjoy doing it, and we naturally improve our skills through practice. People who are innately high in intrapersonal intelligence often choose careers in:

  • Arts
  • Agriculture
  • Conservation
  • Counselling
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Sciences
  • Theology

These are just some examples, but you can see that they focus on academics, creativity, and humanities.

Before we go…

If you've chosen a career outside of those listed above, intrapersonal intelligence still applies to you and you can acquire it. Although it's referred to as a form of intelligence, it's more like a life skill. No matter what job you do, your business and personal life will improve radically if you develop your intrapersonal intelligence.

Knowing who you are will help you understand what you want at every stage of your life. You'll be less self-conscious and more self-aware. This will lead to better decision making, which, in turn, will improve your self-confidence. Better communication with colleagues, team members, friends, and family will make you a happier person. Also, you'll be able to recognize toxic people and release them without feeling guilty.

Improve your intrapersonal intelligence

Take the free assessment and gain a deeper understanding of your inner world. Develop your intrapersonal skills with our free coaching to have a more fulfilling personal and professional life.

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  1. https://www.uthsc.edu/tlc/intelligence-theory.php
  2. https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html
  3. https://www.nordangliaeducation.com/pbis-prague/news/2020/12/09/the-nine-types-of-intelligence
  4. https://www.psychmechanics.com/why-intrapersonal-intelligence-matters/
  5. https://www.simplypsychology.org/multiple-intelligences.html#:~:text=Howard%20Gardner's%20theory%20of%20multiple%20intelligences%20proposes%20that%20people%20are,only%20focuses%20on%20cognitive%20abilities.
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