Relationship: The art and practice

Relationship. Unusual dog and cat pairing.Managing your relationship with others is the fourth pillar of Emotional Intelligence or EI.

Do we really need other people?

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

John Donne said this. I have changed the quote a little for reasons of gender correctness because the 16th and 17th century world of John Donne was markedly different too our enlightened utopia. That aside, the basic truth of his statement is unaltered.

The answer to the question is a definite yes. We need other people. Even if we don’t like them we do need them.

You need to build solid and effective relationships with other people in all areas of your life 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.

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.

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

You will 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.

So how does knowing this help?

This whole series has been about emotional intelligence in the real world and has focused on developing and using EI as a leader or manager. Being an effective leader or manager is all about building solid sustainable relationships with other people, groups and organisations.

This is where the magic happens. Knowledge as they say is power.

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. This will then allow you to redefine them if necessary or build upon them in new, interesting and beneficial ways.

Relationship connection comes first

The connection comes first, and 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. 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.

For example, 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, they may inadvertently repeat the same negative behaviour with similar outcomes.

Any business or professional relationship can be impacted the same way. There can be high-quality and low-quality interactions.

Whilst you had quite a bit of control over the relationship connection, you can only ever have full control over one half of the relationship 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 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 a relationship is a deliberate & conscious creative act

One of the key things with managing relationships is that word managing. You need to manage them. You need to manage the connections you make then you need to manage your contribution the quality of that relationship.

This management does not happen magically. Situations rarely fix themselves spontaneously.

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

Communication, compromise, respect, trust, understanding, listening, compassion, etc… are all key elements of positive healthy relationships. You need to be constantly checking and monitoring to ensure these elements are front and centre. If they are missing or disappearing, then some action will need to be taken. You will need to take charge and manage.

Bear in mind, you may be the party causing the issues. Manage yourself. Sort it out or break it off.

I also used the word creative here. Creativity is an important component in the management of any relationship. When things which have worked in the past stop working then you 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 have now been covered in this article series, but 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 are hopefully more aware of emotional intelligence as both a concept and a practical learnable skill. I recommend making it a priority in your life. 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 in the real world

Self-awareness and how to develop it

Self-regulation and its importance to you

Understanding others and how to do it