Managing relationships & EI

Emotional Intelligence or EI and managing relationships.

Managing relationships with others is the fourth pillar of Emotional Intelligence or EI.

Recall that emotional intelligence comprises four pillars: self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships.

You could check out my “Emotional Intelligence is vital” post for more insight.

Do you really need other people?

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Taken from John Donne’s Devotions (1624)

I’ve changed John Donne’s quote a little because of modern gender correctness. The 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different to our enlightened utopia. That aside, the basic truth of his statement is unaltered.

The answer to the question, “Do you really need other people?” is a definite yes.

Even if you don’t like other people, you do need them. Subsequently, because you need them you must also become more adept at managing relationships with them.

Your networks are everything

You must build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of your life and work. We all must create and successfully manage such strong personal and professional networks. You also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place, you can then begin effectively managing relationships.

Your relationships define you

Your friendships, family connections and working relationships define you. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them.

Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, from my perspective at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

What defines a relationship?

We can most usefully talk about the word relationship here as either the way in which two or more people are connected, or the way in which two or more people or groups think about, feel about, interact with and behave toward each other. The first part of the two-part statement above defines a relationship’s connection component and the second part speaks to the quality or nature of the relationship.

An example:

For example, a residential landlord may be said to be in a relationship with a tenant due to the fact one rents the other a dwelling; this is a straightforward relationship description based on connection.

You might also describe the situation by saying the landlord and tenant have an uneasy relationship; because the tenant is always waiting until the very last minute to pay their rent. This speaks more to the quality aspect of the relationship. A low-quality one in this example.

Your capacity for managing relationships has its limits

Relationships can fall anywhere on a spectrum running from strong to weak.

You will also have a huge number of relationships in your life.

Some you will be aware of and actively managing and some you may be aware of but have no interest in managing. There may well be some you are aware of but have no ability or opportunity to manage and yet more of which you are simply unaware of at any level.

How exactly will this help me?

This article series is about practical emotional intelligence in the real world.

Going along to get along is a great mantra to keep in mind. Improved emotional intelligence levels and balance will be of great benefit for everyone.

I work mostly with organisational leaders & managers

Because I tend to work mostly with organisational leaders and managers, I focus my own EI efforts in that domain. I help organisational leaders and managers develop their EI skills and mindsets.

Being a more effective leader or manager is all about managing relationships well. Building solid sustainable relationships with other people, groups and organisations.

Your personal magic starts here

This is where your magic begins to happen because knowledge, as they say, is power.

You can, and must, apply your new EI managing relationships knowledge to any life/work domain you choose. No excuses, you are in control now. This frees you to shine.

Intention, specificity and focus

As you will have been working on your emotional intelligence, you will be more self-aware and better able to regulate yourself. Also, you will have a better understanding about what makes other people tick.

Now, you are ready to look at your relationship with the world in general and more specifically other people.

You can now begin to consciously and intentionally identify, investigate and then classify the relationships in your life. Subsequently, you can redefine them if necessary or build upon them in new, interesting and beneficial ways.

When managing relationships, connection comes first

The connection always comes first. Better connections naturally lead to better relationships. Proactively managing relationships is eminently doable, because you have a surprising amount of control over who you connect with and which groups you associate yourself with.

You may not be able to choose your family and relations, but you can choose your own friends and associates.

There are always choices

Also, up to a practical financial and skill-based limit, you can choose where you work and often, who you associate with within that working environment.

You can choose who you wish to approach to initiate a potential new relationship and you can refuse some or all such approaches to you if you so desire.

Bear this in mind because it is important; you always have choices.

With no connection there cannot be a practical personal or business relationship.

Relationship quality follows close behind

If a relationship exists at all then it follows that the relationship has some sort of inherent quality which defines that relationship. This inherent quality can also determine the stability and durability of the relationship.

Any inherent qualities can be both positive and negative and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical within any relationship.

Some qualities can overpower others and take control of or even destroy a relationship if not managed and controlled.

A dysfunctional relationship example:

Suppose, for instance in a marriage, if one partner deeply mistrusts the other. This can lead to paranoia and stress.

The untrusted partner can become so upset with the suspicious atmosphere they seek external comfort and misbehave. They likely would not have misbehaved at all in a trusting environment. If this happens the mistrusting partner sees it as validation of their mistrust, and it has in fact become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

This is obviously not a high-quality relationship. Even if both parties split up and found other partners, one or both may inadvertently repeat the same negative behaviour with similar outcomes.

Unfortunately, managing relationships is always asymmetric

Any relationship is impacted by asymmetry. There can be unequal levels and intensities of high-quality and low-quality interactions.

However, it gets worse before it gets better, because whilst you had quite a bit of control over the connection, you can only ever have full control over one half of the quality; your own half.

This means you can always choose how you behave and respond, but you have no direct control over how the other party responds or reciprocates.

You can of course try to influence the other party or group but, if the situation is extremely bad the best thing to do may be to break the connection entirely and end the relationship.

Managing relationships is a deliberate & conscious creative act

The key things with managing relationships is that word managing.

You need to actively manage things. You need to manage the connections you make then you need to manage your contribution the quality of that connection.

Effectively managing relationships doesn’t happen entirely magically. Good situations need to remain good. Poor situations rarely fix themselves spontaneously.

Be proactive

The successful and effective management of a relationship is a deliberate and conscious act. Ideally this happens on both sides of the connection equation; these generally prove to be the better connections overall.

Communication, compromise, respect, trust, understanding, listening, compassion, etc… are all key elements of positive healthy relationships.

Always be checking in

You need to be constantly checking and monitoring to ensure these elements are front and centre. If they’re missing or disappearing, then action will need to be taken.

You must take charge and manage.

Bear in mind, if there are any issues, you may be the party causing the issues. Always be managing yourself first. Sort it out or break it off.

Creativity is also vital

I also used the word creative here. Creativity is an important component when managing relationships.

When things which have worked in the past stop working then you will need to get creative. Try something new. If it fails, try something else. Use your judgement here and don’t end up flogging a dead horse. Tenacity is a good trait, but stubbornness is not so good.

Relationships are not good when either party is too passive or too aggressive. Balance works best.

Is the EI puzzle complete now?

The four pillars are in place. You have all the tools required. However, your work has only just begun. Like the game of chess, the rules can be straightforward enough, but it can take at least one lifetime to get good at the game.

You’re more aware of emotional intelligence as both a concept and a practical learnable skill.

I recommend making EI and its development a priority in your life.

Your way forward with EI

Firstly, seek your own balance across the four EI pillars.

Then seek to raise your skill level in all the EI pillars equally and to as high a point as you can.

Life is not meant to be a spectator sport. Get involved in your own life and enjoy it to the max.

If you are not in control of your life, then someone else will be. Trust me, controlling it yourself is far better.

What next?

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Self-regulation and Emotional Intelligence

Understanding others and EI

Emotional Intelligence is vital

Emotional Intelligence or EI is vital

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence or EI is a term used commonly in the business and professional world. You might also hear it called EQ or Emotional Quotient. Whatever the terms used, people are always banging on about it, aren’t they? You’ve probably heard them saying such things as, “You need more emotional intelligence” or “We need to hire for emotional intelligence.” It’s said with so much conviction you feel you must be the only one who doesn’t get it. Stress not. You’re not the only one. Far from it in fact. If they are honest, most people would admit they don’t get it. If you’re any sort of professional manager in any modern organisation, you’ll hear about it a lot. It therefore makes sense to get a good handle on it.

In relation to EI then, there are four types of people in the workplace. The ones who have high EI already often assume everyone else already understands it; they therefore feel no real need to explain it. There are the ones who don’t have it and couldn’t care less about anyone else anyway. Then there are the ones who do get EI and are keen to inform and help others and there are the ones who want to get it but don’t know where to start. This whirlwind tour article is for the last two types and especially the last type.

What is Emotional Intelligence anyway?

The definition of Emotional Intelligence we’ll use:

In a nutshell, I define having well-developed emotional intelligence as:

“Possessing a well-developed ability and willingness to closely and honestly monitor our internal emotional states and take full control of them and full responsibility for them. At the same time, we need an ability and willingness to monitor the emotional states of other people and to take full responsibility for carefully managing our relationships with those people.”

That’s it really. Were you expecting more? It is easy enough to define but takes a lot of effort to get right. So many people don’t get it right because they can’t be arsed to put the work in. It’s an ongoing commitment toward excellence.

One of the most important words in that definition is “willingness.” If you can’t be bothered with the work and effort, then please stop reading this right now and search elsewhere for the lazy route. There is no magic-bullet and no easy answer. EI is indeed a learnable skill; but the process of learning takes effort and commitment. You really do need to be motivated.

A down and dirty look at Emotional Intelligence

Again, the article is a whistle-stop tour of the four elements of EI and is designed to provide some awareness to get you started. I have produced four more articles to expand on each section.

Take emotional intelligence very seriously. Nurture it and develop it in yourself and others.

Why does Emotional Intelligence matter to you anyway?

Emotional intelligence is vital for everyone. It defines how well you know yourself and control yourself and it defines how well you get on with others. If you’re any sort of modern people manager or leader, you’ll be expected to possess an elevated level of emotional intelligence. You should ideally be constantly looking to improve it. You are also expected to identify and nurture EI in your staff and teams. The measure of your emotional intelligence level is known as your Emotional Quotient or EQ. This measure of EQ is now considered more important than the traditional measurement of intelligence or IQ.

Decision makers
Calm under pressure
Able to lead
And more

From an organisational perspective, emotionally intelligent people are seen as more influential, better team leaders, more politically astute, calmer under pressure, better decision makers, less stressed, more creative, more self-confident, more self-driven and more able to drive others. They see people with these attributes as the rising stars and the people with the most potential. You’d like some of this right? Absolutely. The answer is to become more emotionally intelligent.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be learnt and developed by almost anyone. If you do this you will possess a remarkable set of transferable set of skills and mindsets. Elevating your EI levels will have a positive benefit throughout the whole of your life.

The effects of Emotional Intelligence in the workplace

Here’s the problem. Many of the professional people I encounter in my coaching and training work have a poor understanding of their own emotional intelligence levels. They also have a poor understanding of what is meant by Emotional Intelligence as a concept. This is a real concern as the negative effects can be highly detrimental and costly. Get it right however and the positive benefits are huge.

The organisational effects of low Emotional Intelligence

Managers and leaders with low levels of emotional intelligence tend to handle people poorly and have little understanding about other people. They tend to create high stress levels, high staff turnover rates, low productivity and low quality of output.  They can even create elevated levels in sickness and HR legal problems. At work, this costs you or your business real money. They generally, but unfortunately not always, do poorly themselves.

Managers with low Emotional Intelligence increase stress, increase staff turnover, lower productivity, lower quality, increase sickness and even cause legal issues.

The organisational effects of high Emotional Intelligence

Good managers and leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence tend to do the exact opposite. Such managers and leaders can make you or your business real money. They are generally more successful in their own right as well.

Managers with high Emotional Intelligence create harmony, increase craetivity, increase productivity, increase happiness and make more money

On a personal level a high level of emotional intelligence enables us to negotiate life with more ease and success. We understand ourselves well, we can curb our excesses and we can play to our strengths. We can build solid relationships and people both like us and want to be with us. Life is generally better with high emotional intelligence.

Life is usually more enjoyable and successful with high Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence in a nutshell

There are four main components or pillars to EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Understanding others
  • Managing relationships
The 4 pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-regulation, understanding others and managing relationships

That’s it, plain and simple. These four elements cover pretty much everything you do in your life and work regarding interpersonal interactions and self-development. All well and good but what can you do in the real world now you know this? What does this mean for you?

There is a lot of complex theory, ideas and downright nonsense flying about regarding emotional intelligence. I’ll make this information as plain and straightforward as I can and keep it on a practical level.


Self-awareness is the first pillar of emotional intelligence

This is the first pillar of emotional intelligence and it is the key to it all. You are the centre of your universe. If you can’t, don’t or won’t dig deep and fully acknowledge and accept your true, warts and all, self then the rest of your life will be inauthentic at best. Even if you learn to get on well with others, your lack of knowledge or ownership of your own core being will leave you with a sense of incompleteness and imbalance. In my experience others can sense this fundamental lack in you and they will treat you differently as a result.

It can be scary diving into our self

This search for true self-awareness takes courage, commitment and massive honesty. I’m not suggesting you go and sit cross-legged on top of a mountain to meditate for years on end. I am suggesting you begin to identify your true strengths and weaknesses, your true values and beliefs and your true desires and fears. Work with a coach, friend or trusted adviser if you need to. Seek honest feedback and accept it with gratitude. Do whatever you need to do to learn more about the true you because it will allow you to move forward.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. Is it even possible? Well, I’m still searching for my true self, so I can’t answer that one for you I’m afraid. In truth, you may never find the absolute true you but if you try hard enough you will find enough truth to work wonders with.


Self-regulation is the second pillar of emotional intelligence

The second pillar of emotional intelligence is the regulation of oneself. Once you begin to discover and uncover this true version of yourself, you will then begin to realise certain behaviours, thoughts and emotions which are somewhat less than helpful to both you and others. You may discover beneficial traits and thought processes which you might not have realised you had. In order to improve your emotional intelligence, you will now need to work on regulating or controlling any unhelpful attributes and ideally boosting your more helpful attributes.

There is always something to work on

Once again, this is easier said than done. Do you have a lack of focus or attention? How about procrastination? What about really needing to lose weight or get fitter? Are you a perfectionist? Maybe a little too passive-aggressive perhaps? Are you lonely? Perhaps you lose your temper easily? Do you need more assertiveness? What about your fear of conflict? How are you going to address these and any other issues you might have?

What really stops you doing what you know needs to be done? Is it time? Is it money? Or is really laziness? Perhaps it is all three or even none of the above. Only once you become aware of your deep true self, which we looked at in the previous section, can you work on the true core issues?

Understanding others

Understanding others and what makes them tick is the third pillar of emotional intelligence

The third emotional intelligence pillar is developing an understanding of others. When you get right down to it, other people can be confusing and strange. It can be hard enough to try and figure out what makes us tick but once other people get involved in any part of our lives and work, it can get very messy and complicated. Life would be technically easier without other people, but it would be a lonely and essentially pointless existence. We need other people and generally we like other people, so it makes sense to understand them.

The big problem is that everyone is as unique in their way as you are in yours.

There is always some good news

The good news is, although each one of us is truly unique, we can also be usefully categorised and bundled in quite general ways. These broad-brush definitions and classifications are not truly accurate, but they are incredibly useful ways to inform our own thoughts about and behaviour toward the other people we interact with. They could be said to be intentional and well-meant stereotypes. With a little study and practice you can become very adept at recognising these broad categories. At this point you can then adapt your communication and behaviour to get the best from any encounter with them.

Even if you don’t like other people very much, learning to understand what makes them who they are can greatly elevate you as a communicator and leader.

Managing relationships with others

Managing relationships is the fourth pillar of emotional intelligence

Managing relationships with others is the fourth pillar of emotional intelligence.

“No person is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent.” John Donne said this, although I have changed the quote a little for reasons of gender correctness – the 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different too our enlightened utopia.

Relationships really do matter

The truth of his statement is unaltered. You need to build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of our lives and work. All of us need to develop strong personal and professional networks. We also need to be able to operate effectively as key elements in the networks of others.

When the first three pillars of emotional intelligence are firmly in place we can then begin to create and successfully manage such relationships and networks.

Our friendships, family connections and working relationships can define us. Modern life is nigh on impossible without them. Even if it were possible to live entirely alone and isolated, for myself at least, it would be a miserable and pointless life.

Begin at the beginning

The order the emotional intelligence elements are in place is the order in which to then develop them for best results. Firstly, make sure that every element is in place then try and balance them in terms of level. If you are poor at managing relationships for example and relatively happy with the other key elements, then start by developing your ability to manage relationships. Completeness and uniformity of ability is the first step.

Start with balance

Secondly, once the elements are in place and broadly level, you can begin to consider bringing the level of all four up to as high a level as you can without overdoing any one area.

After balance then raise overall levels

There will always be a tendency to lead and lag on elements in any such endeavour but don’t stick to your favourites or strong areas at the expense of others. Using the relationship element again, if you hate talking to new people or even talking to friends and colleagues, don’t let it hold you back. Do not simply become a very self-aware observer of others. Be brave and break through your barriers. Make connect with them somehow. Seek tuition, coaching or support and force (or regulate) yourself to get out there and do it anyway.

This is a basic introduction. It is a practical overview at best. There is always more to learn and absorb. Like life itself, developing emotional intelligence is a journey of discovery.

Next steps

Educate yourself

I’m going to be blunt here. Leaders are readers so educate yourself and become informed. Learn all you need to know about emotional intelligence and its implications. This applies to all your life.

Dare to be different

Life isn’t a spectator sport

Don’t wait to be spoon fed. Too many people do that so stand out from your crowd and get the knowledge. If printed books are not your thing then get audio book versions. If video is your thing then seek out the information on or YouTube. Go on a course or hire a coach. Whatever you do make sure you get the information you need.  You owe it to yourself and your staff to be the very best leader and manager you can be.


I recommend you start with the work of Daniel Goleman who popularised the rise of EI with his book Emotional Intelligence then seek out the myriad of associated online resources.

Learn, experiment and grow

Once you have the theoretical knowledge, start to experiment and grow. Begin to apply the knowledge practically in the real world. Make mistakes then reflect, learn and move on. Try new things out. Seek coaching and training and try them out again. Seek feedback. Increase your own emotional intelligence and help others do the same. The effort is worth it.

I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have, please subscribe to either the blog or my newsletter to ensure you hear about subsequent articles and other useful and informative material.

In the meantime, you might also like to check out:

Self-awareness and Emotional Intelligence

Self-regulation and its importance to you

Understanding others and how to do it

Relationship: The art and practice