Relationship Management: The Final Pillar of Emotional Intelligence

Our lives thrive off relationships. That's why relationship management is so important. Learn how you can generate healthy and positive relationships.

How much time do you put into managing the relationships in your life? Are the quality of your relationships something you view as within your control, or mere happenstances which occur naturally?

For the most part, all of us understand the importance relationships play in our lives. They can be pathways to joy, happiness, and success, or sources of anger and frustration.

Relationships are not a one-way street, requiring two or more individuals working together to make them flourish. However, we each hold the power and subsequent responsibility to manage such relationships in a healthy way.

The work we each must put forth is known as relationship management. A skill we may not be familiar with, but one of incredible importance.

What is Relationship Management

What does it mean to manage relationships? Is this referring to your ability to form a relationship based on manipulation and control? Once you develop this skill, will you possess the power to mold any relationship in your favor?

No, that is a selfish misinterpretation of relationship management. The term, associated with emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman, is all about building your interpersonal communication skills.

An individual who is highly skilled in this regard views relationships as continually evolving organisms requiring constant cultivation.

You do not see relationships as happening to you, rather, they are a piece of your life that needs positive attention to flourish. Think of your relationships like a flower. If you wish to have a beautiful flower blossoming in your garden, attention, care, and watering must be provided.

Likewise, relationships require an equal amount of attention. It’s not good enough to simply plant a seed of friendship. You must be willing to water it with kindness, positive communication, and care.

Thinking in this way will result in you generating healthy, positive, and long-lasting relationships based on trust that will be of value to each participant. But this only happens after a baseline understanding regarding the importance of emotions is present.

“Relationships require an equal amount of attention. It’s not good enough to simply plant a seed of friendship. You must be willing to water it with kindness, positive communication, and care.”

The Top Layer of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is made up of four pillars, each one leading into the other. Relationship management is the top layer of EQ, being the culmination of proper development of the previous three pillars.

The first three pillars of EQ include self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness. Self-awareness is all about understanding yourself. Gaining insight into what you think and how that drives your emotions and behaviors.

From there, you’ll develop the ability to manage, or control yourself. At this point, you’ll have the power to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, control your emotional responses in a positive way, and control your actions effectively.

Now that you’ve got yourself under control, it’s time to look outward. This is where the final two pillars of EQ come into play, with the third one being aimed at putting yourself in a proper position to succeed with the fourth.

Social awareness refers to your ability to understand the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. This is very much aligned with the term empathy.

Instead of quickly judging others based on surface appearances, you have the capability to look beneath the surface to find the true driving force for the way they are.

Once you begin to look to others with understanding instead of judgment, the fourth pillar will be underway. Proper relationship management occurs as a result of becoming skilled in self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness.

You must first look within yourself, because without an understanding as to why you think, feel, and act the way you do, there is no hope of you interacting with others in a positive way for very long.

From this insight comes the power of control. If you can manage your actions, how much better would your relationships become? Conflicts would be greatly reduced and the impact you have on others would grow tremendously.

Now the understanding you gain from paying attention to social awareness allows you to empathize with others and really get to the true origins of their pain and the desires that lie dormant in their minds.

With all this information, managing relationships becomes a breeze. But, it doesn’t happen all at once. Work must be put into cultivating such skills. If it requires work, you should always ask if the effort is worth the reward.

Why Relationship Management is Crucial to Athletes

It’s always important to question why a skill or quality is important for you to develop, especially as an athlete whose time is often split between multiple commitments.

Well, in terms of importance, developing the ability to manage relationships in a healthy and positive way is one of the most crucial skills an athlete can gain.

Whether we like to admit it or not, relationships play a large role in the success of an athlete. This includes their advancement in levels, along with the success experienced within their current team.

To emphasize the importance of relationships to athletes, there are three critical ones that require attention. The first one is the relationship you have with your parents. Starting from an early age, this is one that will mold you.

Your personality, confidence, self-talk, and resilience are heavily influenced by your parents. As you grow older, it becomes more important to continue to cultivate a relationship with them as support and encouragement.

Next is going to be the relationship you have with your coach. Never being one who gave much attention to this area, I learned the importance of the athlete-coach relationship too late. However, my mistake can serve as your lesson.

This relationship will lead to more confidence on the court/field, more opportunities for learning, and their support in helping you reach the next level.

The third relationship is the one you have with your teammates. With this comes healthy competition, encouragement, and more enjoyment in playing your sport.

These three are just the beginning, with many more types of relationships playing into the success of an athlete. But they begin to show just how crucial cultivating the ability to properly manage relationships is to an athlete.

“Whether we like to admit it or not, relationships play a large role in the success of an athlete. This includes their advancement in levels, along with the success experienced within their current team.”

How to Improve Your Relationship Management

After coming to realize the importance of relationship management, your focus should shift to how you can improve this skill. So how can you become more skilled in the ways of managing relationships?

Well, it can be as simple as giving more attention to the connections between yourself and others. Understanding the need to nurture and cultivate relationships is a great place to start.

However, I would like to get more specific. Exactly what steps can you take to build positive, healthy, and long-lasting relationships? Ones that will benefit not only you, but all those involved.

Step #1: Understand Yourself First

First and foremost, you must understand yourself. There is a reason self-awareness is the first pillar of emotional intelligence. You cannot relate well to others without first knowing yourself.

Broken down further, self-awareness is categorized in two different ways.

Internal Self-Awareness

The first is internal self-awareness. Here you seek to gain greater awareness of your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

A high level of internal self-awareness provides you with insight not only about what you are thinking, feeling, and doing but why. The why is truly the valuable part. Though you cannot understand the why without first recognizing the what.

If you wish to grow in internal self-awareness, there needs to be an understanding of how your thoughts drive emotions and the behaviors which are fueled as a result. The thoughts you have will directly lead to an emotional state.

For example, if you think negatively towards yourself, you will experience feelings of low confidence, anxiety, or depression. In contrast, positive thoughts result in feelings of confidence, high self-worth, and joy.

Your actions are influenced mainly by your emotional state. By understanding this, you are in a powerful position to master your internal self-awareness.

Once you notice a thought, a line can be drawn between that thought, your emotional state, and the behaviors you exhibit in response.

External Self-Awareness

The second category of self-awareness is external self-awareness. This comes after the initial understanding of what and why and plays a large role in the quality of your relationships.

External self-awareness refers to your ability to recognize how your thoughts, feelings, and actions are affecting other people. For example, let’s say you are in a negative emotional state.

You’ve recognized what thoughts are leading to the way you’re feeling, and understand why you are acting the way that you are. Now, how are your emotions and your actions influencing those around you?

Beginning to ask yourself this question will immediately improve the quality of your relationships. You will be able to realize how your negative thoughts are influencing your peers to adopt a similar way of thinking.

This is crucial in sports, especially if you’re viewed as a leader on the team. If you get down after a mistake, and your emotional state and body language mimic the negative thoughts in your head, how will your teammates likely react?

It will be easy for them to mold themselves to your negative mindset. That’s really what external self-awareness is all about, recognizing how your thoughts, feelings, and actions are playing into the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the people around you.

Step #2: Pay Attention to Others Feelings

Empathy will take you far in a relationship. This simple word has the power to completely transform the way you relate yourself to others. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

Think of the old adage, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.” You’re not literally trading places with anyone, but rather, you seek to see a situation from another person’s perspective.

I believe that to be a key to empathy. It’s difficult for us to understand the feelings of another while examining the situation from our own point of view.

One of the main causes of friction in relationships and a barrier to building successful ones is a disconnect in terms of another person’s emotional state. What I mean is, you do not understand, or you may misinterpret, the way they express themselves.

For example, if you are seeking to improve the relationship you have with your coach, it may be difficult if you don’t understand why they appear angry or hard on you. By taking a step back, and examining their emotional state from their point of view, you’ll gain valuable insight.

This insight will improve the way you relate yourself to them, and help you cultivate a more understanding relationship.

So, if you want to improve your ability to manage relationships, always keep empathy at the forefront of your mind.

Step #3: Don’t Compromise Yourself

How many times have you compromised your values or acted in a way not aligned with who you want to be in order to avoid confrontation or achieve peace within a relationship? I know I’ve been guilty of this before.

I used to think the main goal in a relationship was to make sure everyone else was okay. What this often led to was one-sided relationships and people-pleasing behavior on my part.

Truth be told, this is not the way to cultivate a healthy or positive relationship. You always want to be true to yourself. Do not compromise who you are in hopes of holding onto a relationship.

If that sort of relinquishing of who you are is required, ask yourself, is such a relationship valuable in the first place? Sometimes relationships need conflict. This allows them to grow and ensures both parties are bringing their authentic selves to the table.

When your aim is to manage relationships, it’s easy to fall into the trap of easing any tensions that arise at the expense of yourself. Just remember, managing a positive relationship requires benefits to be had by everyone involved, including yourself.

“When your aim is to manage relationships, it’s easy to fall into the trap of easing any tensions that arise at the expense of yourself. Just remember, managing a positive relationship requires benefits to be had by everyone involved, including yourself.”

Step #4: Take Feedback Well

You wouldn’t think of taking feedback and criticism as a skill, though, it’s a valuable asset for all of us to develop. How is this tied into relationship management? There are two ways you can use feedback to improve the quality of your relationships.

The first way will involve direct feedback from individuals in terms of the way you make them feel. Think of this along the lines of external self-awareness. An incredible way to gain insight as to how you influence the thoughts and feelings of others is to seek their feedback.

Ask them questions and see how your emotional state and actions influence them. When you do, you must be willing to accept, with grace, whatever their feedback may be. Do not grow angry or try to convince them that’s not how they feel.

Take their feedback willingly, and use it to improve your external self-awareness.

The second way you can use feedback to improve your relationship management skills is by being coachable. Whether it’s a coach, a trainer, teacher, or whomever, accept their criticisms and feedback as ways to improve yourself.

Coaches love coachable players. By showing you are willing to learn and grow as an individual, they will be more forthcoming with ways to help you improve.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence is a key component of success. The pillars which make up EQ are valuable skills in and of themselves. After improving your self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness, you find yourself in the position to manage your relationships.

Relationship management is all about improving your interpersonal communication skills. As an athlete or performer, learning how to cultivate healthy and positive relationships will be an asset on your path to success.

In order to generate this skill, you first must pay attention to your own self-awareness. From there, utilize empathy, do not compromise yourself, and be willing to accept feedback.

If you do, you’ll find yourself gaining the ability to nourish and cultivate long-lasting and positive relationships.

How are the quality of the relationships in your life? Do you put much work into the cultivation of your relationships, or merely let them happen to you? Let me know in the comments below.

I hope that you enjoyed this article, and if you did, please feel free to share it with others.

Are you seeking peak performance? If so, check out how one-on-one mental coaching will help you reach your full potential.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

Recent Articles
Follow Us

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!