A Cousin to Relational Wisdom

Relational wisdom (RW) is similar to a psychological concept known as “emotional intelligence,” which is often referred to as “EI” or “EQ” (emotional quotient). Although there are major differences between RW and EI (as detailed below), both concepts encourage an understanding of the ways that human neurology affect our emotions and relationships.

Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. This concept first appeared in psychology circles in 1920 and has been studied and refined ever since. It was popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995, whose book Emotional Intelligence spent over eighteen months on the New York Times Best Seller List.

The concept has gained further exposure through Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of the best-selling Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and founders of TalentSmart, Inc., a consulting firm that serves 75% of Fortune 500 Companies. Ken Sande has attended their training and qualified as an Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer.

These three psychologists, Goleman, Bradberry and Greaves, describe emotional intelligence as being made up of four core skills that are similar to those in the relational wisdom paradigm: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and relationship-management (essentially the bottom two-thirds of the RW paradigm).

The relational wisdom paradigm includes these four core skills under slightly different names, while adding two new skills, values-awareness and values-engagement, to encourage people to deliberately consider the ways that their personal values impact their behavior. Another key different between RW and most EI training programs is that RW360 has developed four simple acrostics to help people practice the core principles of relational wisdom in their daily lives.

Extensive Evaluations, Proven Benefits

Through over 700,000 individual appraisals, Bradberry and Greaves have demonstrated that emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of workplace performance (a far higher correlation than IQ). More specifically, they’ve found that 90% of the top performers they’ve studied are high in emotional intelligence. Conversely, just 20% of bottom performers have high emotional intelligence.

Not surprisingly, people with high emotional intelligence also earn more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. High emotional intelligence has also been shown to correlate to enhanced empathy, higher stress tolerance, greater flexibility to change, and even better health and recovery from illness. (Click link at the bottom of this page to learn about additional workplace benefits.)

Online Assessment

The books written by these three respected psychologists provide valuable insights into the the ways that our God-given neurological and hormonal systems affect our emotions and relationships, as well as ways that people can improve their relational skills. In addition, the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 contains an online assessment that helps people identify their relative strengths and weakness in emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence Has Downsides

Although popular resources and training on emotional intelligence are of real value, we should be aware that these materials, as well as emotional intelligence itself, can also have significant downsides.

As a growing number of articles indicate, high levels of emotional intelligence can actually contribute to several relational problems, including:

  • Over analyzing people and situations, which can become emotional exhausting and paralyze decision making
  • Excessive self-criticism
  • An inclination to agree to questionable actions out of sympathy or excessive sensitivity to others’ emotions
  • Using emotions to side step questions and critical thinking by others
  • Difficulty shifting our focus from single individuals and relating effectively to groups of people

But there are even deeper problems.

First, since traditional teaching on EI lacks an objective moral compass, people may feel free to do what is right in their own eyes. This leaves them open to the temptation to manipulate others, either intentionally or unintentionally, for their own advantage (often referred to as “the dark side of EI“).

Second, since the primary motivation for improving EI is usually personal advancement (e.g., job promotions or increasing income), these relational skills can easily be used for selfish reasons rather than the good of others, which can lead to conflicting agendas and strained relationships and fragmented teams.

Going Beyond Emotional Intelligence

Relational wisdom encourages individuals to develop and be guided by an altruistic value system that includes a sincere concern for the interests and well-being of other individuals, of the groups they serve and of their wider communities. This consciously applied value system serves as a moral compass that
reduces the tendency to use relational skills solely for personal gain or to the detriment of others.

–Ken Sande

Next Recommended Section: RW in the Workplace

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