Relational Intelligence — Making It Work For You

Relational Intelligence is an essential skill and one each of us can learn.

(My husband, Ron Lewis, is a pastor, and yesterday he shared his pulpit with me as part of a February series called, iRelate.  My topic was Relational Intelligence and here are the primary points I shared with our congregation)

Relational Intelligence — What it is, tools we can use, and how to overcome what holds us back

First, the Vision — Imagine a world where people have great skills in making relationships thrive.  Thriving is different than surviving of course, and yet few of us seem to know what it takes.

Intelligence Defined —  the ability to learn, understand, or deal with new or challenging situations.  (Who doesn’t need this when it comes to relationships?)

But perhaps the problem isn’t that we lack intelligence.  When hand-held devices put virtually all information we need at our fingertips, is the problem really a lack of know-how when it comes to relationships?  My premise is NO.  Rather, it’s that we don’t APPLY what we know and are left relationally suffering.

King Solomon, known as the wisest man of his time, is a perfect example of this.  He possessed much wisdom, but didn’t apply it to his wives.  With 700 wives and 300 concubines, He clung to them in love and his wives led him astray.  Lots of wisdom, no application of exact instructions God gave about making his relationships thrive.

So what are the TOOLS we need and how do we APPLY them?

Tool #1 — My favorite tool for relational intelligence is the Bible.  Filled with relatable stories of broken people and destitute situations, we find truths on how to love our wives, husbands, friends, and co-workers in practical ways that bring life-giving results.

Tool #2 — Mentors — At a time early in my career when I lacked mentors at work, a group of five girlfriends and I started meeting for breakfast, mentoring one another on becoming great managers.  We were all young and inexperienced but grew immensely through helping each other.  Mentoring comes through books, articles, speakers, and friends.  Mentors are an essential tool in becoming relationally intelligent.

Why Don’t We Apply What We Know? Three reasons seem to be common to all of us.

Reason #1 — Lazyness.  It’s easier to pull away, not confront, and avoid the tough work of relationships.  Just like it’s easier to sit home with a Cinnabon and cup of coffee than go out in the freezing cold for my 3-times weekly jogs.  I rarely FEEL like running, but after 25 years I’m committed no matter what.  For me, physical discipline drives out lazyness in so many areas, including being lazy with my relationships.  Running may not be your thing, but do whatever it takes to overcome lazyness.

Reason #2 — We Get Offended. Relationships are tough work and misunderstanding is inevitable.  Whenever an offense occurs we are tempted to shy away, harbor the hurt, and react in catastrophic ways.

Over the years I have practiced not getting offended and have determined, no matter what, no one will offend me. What they say may be offensive, but I choose not to be offended.  I look at their heart motives and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Proverbs 19:11 says it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.  Relational Intelligence means I am committed to an environment of love and acceptance, overlooking offenses every time.

Reason #3 — We Feel Unqualified.  If we don’t believe we can really be great at relationships, we’ll stop shy of excellence.  Maybe we have failed in the past, can’t seem to break through with a certain individual, or are simply not confident when it comes to relating well.  Here’s the good news, you and I have what it takes to be great at relationships.

One of my all-time favorite articles, one I go back to over and over, was published in FORTUNE magazine several years ago called, “What It Takes to Be Great”

There are so many rich nuggets and here are a few of my favorites….

  • Research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success.  The secret?  Painful and demanding practice and hard work.
  • Talent has little or nothing to do w/greatness.  You can make yourself into any number of things, and you can even make yourself great.”
  • Feedback is crucial and yet most people don’t seek it; they just wait for it, half hoping it won’t come.  If you don’t know how successful you are two things happen: One, you don’t get any better, and two, you stop caring.
  • “There is vast evidence that even the most accomplished people need around ten years of hard work before becoming world-class, a pattern so well established researchers call it the ten year rule.”

The article points out Tiger Woods as a textbook example.  Because his father started his golf practices when he was 18 months old, by the time he was 18 yrs old he’d already racked up 15 years of practice making him superior to all his peers. Tiger even remade his swing because that’s what it took to qualify for greatness in golf.

If I was Tiger’s counselor, I’d help him see that the same focus and perseverance that made him a world-class golfer can make him great at relationships. If he’ll APPLY them, he can become Relationally Intelligent.

For years I read books about relationships, went to counseling, dealt w/ my issues, became relationally intelligent, long before I got married.  I’m certainly not the BEST at all things relational, but I’m determined to be as great as possible.

Relational Intelligence is a worthy goal, and with the right tools and commitment, you and I can reach levels of success we never thought possible.

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