Relational Intelligence: A Key Factor in Business Success
In a highly competitive business landscape, soft skills can make a critical difference in businesses’ survival. At least, that’s one of the possible takeaways from LinkedIn’s report on the most sought-after skills for 2023. Management, communication, customer service, leadership, and sales are among the most in-demand globally. Teamwork managed to sneak onto the list in the tenth position.
Hard skills are still in demand, too. Software development, finance, and Python cannot be replaced by decision-making and problem-solving. The pressure to learn soft skills, however, is increasing. Research from Athabasca University found that 74% of Canadian employees want to improve interpersonal skills, compared to 70% who put digital skills as their highest priority for re-skilling.
Emotional intelligence is crucial in acquiring and developing many in-demand soft skills. The abilities to be aware of oneself, manage oneself, be mindful of the social surroundings, and manage relationships are key requirements for most people-facing roles and roles that rely on cooperation.
Dr. Dharius Daniels, a spiritual leader, entrepreneur, and coach in emotional intelligence, has found a specific aspect of emotional intelligence that warrants an increased focus from everyone looking to advance in business. He calls it relational intelligence.
It starts with recognizing that people are relationship-building machines. We build relationships wherever we go, to work, school, home, and anywhere in between. There’s a variety of possible connections, too, from the close, symmetrical relationships of friendship or romantic partnership to the extremely one-sided relationships of fandom and parasocial relationships.
Regardless of their quantities and qualities, people will form relationships. It’s how we’re programmed. These relationships affect us, too. Some relationships can lift us; others can drain us. Some are nurturing; others are damaging.
“Relationships have a direct or indirect impact on a person’s emotional, professional, financial, and spiritual well-being. Even if we like to think of ourselves as independent, humans are interdependent, and we need other people to improve the quality of our lives,” says Dr. Daniels.
As Dr. Dharius Daniels sees it, relational intelligence is our ability to see our relationships with people for what they really are and adjust accordingly. Different relationships have different purposes, and knowing which is which and who belongs where is one of the critical traits of being people-smart.
The apparent benefits of having high relational intelligence appear in interpersonal relationships. In the business setting, most soft skills in demand, including management, leadership, and communication, have a relationship component. Someone who wants to lead a team or manage a group would benefit from understanding the dynamics within the team, for example, and between themselves and the team.
Team members who want to prove themselves could also benefit from forming proper relationships within the team that allow them to position themselves as a leader. For example, understanding that coworkers don’t fit into the “friend” relationship bucket can help an individual manage their workplace behavior and expectations from others.
A mentor-mentee relationship is one of the essential business relationships for people who are just starting in an industry or want to advance to a new position. However, this type of relationship is often seemingly lopsided — one of the sides does all the giving, but the other does all the taking. If neither of the two is particularly relational intelligent, it won’t last. It takes understanding on both sides for the relationship to work in a balanced way.
If that’s the case, the mentee will appreciate that their mentor is not their friend, for example, and be more respectful of their time. Conversely, the mentor will understand that they’re playing a role in passing on skills and knowledge to someone who doesn’t have them so they might be a bit more lenient and patient.
When applied correctly, relational intelligence can also be good for personal well-being and our intrapersonal relationship. Removing unclear, unproductive, or downright damaging relationships can give us more energy to spend on the people and things that matter to us.
In a business and personal development sense, relational intelligence can stop us from hiding behind the wrong relationship with the wrong people. By assigning other people their proper place in our lives, we’re also helping define ourselves. It gives us room, to be honest about ourselves and our needs and lets us chart a more direct course for the future.
Ultimately, developing relational intelligence isn’t about learning to manipulate or take advantage of people. Dr. Dharius Daniels believes developing relationship intelligence aims to provide meaningful relationships with people who deserve it. It’s about being good at being a mentor, a mentee, or even an acquaintance and trying to use that access to harm people.
“Managing relationships is equivalent to managing life. In the business world, no matter what industry a business is in, it ultimately boils down to people, whether it’s customers or team members. In essence, the most valuable asset of any business is people, and improving relational intelligence is an investment in the success of the business,” says Dr. Daniels.
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