These last few weeks, I have reviewed emotional intelligence. I have reviewed personal competence (self-awareness and self-management). And last week I reviewed one facet of social competence (social awareness). The final facet of social competence is relationship management. It answers the question “What do I do with awareness I have of the social situation?” Relationship management is integral to so many aspects of career development and engagement. For instance, I have worked with leaders who have been able to continuously seek advancement opportunities due to effectively managing and maintaining meaningful professional relationships. As I have mentioned to many individuals I have worked with, the vast majority of positions are never posted or advertised-they are provided to individuals via their networks. Networking involves a high level of relationship management because the most effective results come to those who consistently develop and contribute to their professional relationships.
Assume the Best (with exceptions)
In order to first manage your relationships effectively, I have noticed that for many, it is beneficial to assume the best from individuals. It is normative to feel frustrations with our supervisors, peers, and direct reports at times. As I have mentioned, it would be highly unlikely that at some point in your workplace you have not experienced a range of various emotions. However, meaningful relationships can become damaged or inhibited when we assume the worst from our supervisors, peers, and direct reports. It is improbable that we will ever know exactly what another person’s intentions were behind their behaviors that may have impacted us. Therefore, it can be liberating to assume we do not know the intentions, but we hope that the individual intended to either have a neutral or positive impact on us. If we make this assumption, we are able to more rationally manage conflict or differences that will inevitably exist in our workplaces. An effective way to manage conflict or differences is to discuss the specific impact of another person’s specific action (and not assuming we know the other person’s intention or general traits).
When I say there are exceptions to assuming the best, I am referencing situations that are categorically harmful or unethical by various professional or organizational standards. When situations like that occur, it is best to consult with legal and ethical guidelines, your personal and cultural value system, and with other professionals in your given field and position.
Understand Others’ EQ
Managing relationships is also about understanding and managing others’ emotional responses. For example, it is likely that through social awareness, you are aware of others’ triggers and reactions to certain stressors at work. Let’s say that you know at the end of the month your supervisor’s level of stress increases. It will probably serve both of you well if you wait to discuss a concern you may have about your roles and responsibilities at a different period of time.
Seek Feedback (as always)
As I repeatedly mention, explicit feedback is imperative. Although self-awareness will serve you well in the domain of relationship management, we all have blind spots as we are changing lanes. Thus, it is important to have someone assist us, someone from a different angle or viewpoint who wants us to successfully change into the next lane. Their honest feedback will allow you to advance forward, with direction, clarity, and assurance.
Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. San Diego, Calif.: TalentSmart.