10th September 2011
Relational Intelligence for Relationship Success
As human beings we are built for relationship and hard-wired for connection. Yet, while we experience periods of great connection, happiness and understanding, it is all too often followed by very difficult and painful periods of disconnection, loneliness and misunderstanding which leave us feeling defensive, attacked and vulnerable.
To make matters worse it is in times of disconnection that we are most likely to take our energy out of the relationship. In intimate relationship we do this by withdrawing, withholding, having an affair and at the extreme separating or divorcing. In business we withhold information, avoid the person/s, bad mouth the person/s or ultimately resign. Whatever we do, it is purely a reaction to the disconnection.
As if that’s not enough, add to the mix the fact that as a society we seem to have developed a habit of reducing relationships to the level of commodity - a commodity only worth having while it is useful, or feeding our narcissistic needs. Unfortunately, the combination of the two leads to a rather distorted view that relationships are nothing more than disposable commodities!
The reality is the disconnection is not the problem. The problem is the fact we are culturally ill equipped to navigate our way back into connection and relationship. Interestingly, my clients (couples and business people alike) tell me it is the experience of connection that helps give meaning to the relationship and make the journey of relationship worthwhile.
So what are we fundamentally lacking? Personally, I believe it is Relational Intelligence.
What is Relational Intelligence?
In very broad terms, Relational Intelligence is the ability to:
- Ask the right questions which encourage and invoke the most unique and interesting facets of a person
- Change the energy in the room and the relationship
- Positively impact the tone of the environment to energise the relational space
- Develop a language of abundance rather than a language of deficit (which will help people move forward with passion and a belief they are truly seen, valued and understood)
- Become present to the ‘Here and Now’ so you can accurately and actively listen to one another
- Develop a shared language with which to communicate, create and innovate as well as dissolve conflict
For many it is a complete paradigm shift. It requires the reprioritising of relationship, putting the focus firmly on the quality of the Relational Space and move from an individual to a relational paradigm (I will talk more about this in my next blog).
Do I always have to ‘get it right?’
No matter the context, the question that repeatedly comes up when I talk about Relational Intelligence is ‘Do I always have to get it right?’ Absolutely not! In fact Relational Intelligence has nothing to do with ‘getting it right’. It is about learning a new set of skills, and a new way of being, that will allow you to navigate relationships – through the happy and the challenging times - reducing the disconnection while at the same time opening up the space for relational creativity, harmony, happiness and productivity.
How do we learn Relational Intelligence?
So once we get past the ‘Do I always have to get it right?’ question the next question is ‘So how do we learn Relational Intelligence?’ Well, the lucky few learn Relational Intelligence from conscious and relational families, friends, teachers’ and mentors while the rest of us fumble in the dark until we stumble upon it accidentally or by actively searching for it out of desperation and frustration – usually as a result of our own relationship struggles.
Thankfully, more and more books and workshops are available on the subject. Two of my favourites are ‘Relational Intelligence – How leaders can expand their influence through a new way of being smart’ by Steve Saccone and Hedy and Yumi Schleifer who run workshops for couples and organisations on Relational Intelligence. However we learn it the fact remains - it is our capacity to engage in Relational Intelligence and our ability to convert that into Relational Maturity which determines the success or failure of our relationships, be they personal or professional.
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