Social behavior: trustworthy?

We, humans, are capable of horrible violent conflict and genocide, but also of peace-making and reconciliation. We’re quite an extreme species. The fact that our social behavior can be positively humane, and horrendously inhumane, has always puzzled and interested me.

As a kid, I never really knew if humans were to be trusted. Yes, I had positive experiences in social groups, and yes I had horrible experiences with group behavior. This ambiguity has always kept me curious. And alert.

Sociology and conflict resolution

As is often the case, my personal quest informed my professional curiosity. In line with my fascination, I studied Sociology (BSc), Political Science (MSc) and specialized in Conflict Resolution. After studying topics like war, genocide, human cooperation, and reconciliation in Amsterdam, Berlin and Syria, I soon worked for organizations who facilitate peace-talks and inter-cultural dialogue.

I developed three major things:

Firstly, a deep understanding of how a persons’ emotional- and social state interplay with group-dynamics.

Secondly, my own social skill set. My wariness about human group behavior left me alert and rather shy as a kid. I learned how to express myself in public, how to self-regulate emotions and gained social agency and resilience. Today, I even like training groups.

And thirdly, professional know-how and effective tools on how to help people to understand and own their emotional and social skills.

Individual social skills effect group health

I saw the quality of people’s lives boosting once they owned their emotional and social skills. And I saw how they subsequently contributed to positive social group behavior (in e.g. families, teams, friends). Think: more compassion, creativity, empathy and better conflict resolution in families, friendships and teams.

Social intelligence = key

So yes, social behavior can be positively humane, and horrendously inhumane. Still. Let’s focus on our social and relational intelligence and work towards the humane. Starting with ourselves. To finish with the words of anti-apartheid activist Alon Paton:

There is only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one’s own life, to exemplify man’s humanity to man.

– anti-apartheid activist Alon Paton