Emotional Intelligence

by Andy Smith

Step five: Handling relationships


The ability to manage, influence and inspire emotions in others.

Being able to handle emotions in relationships and the ability to influence and inspire others are essential foundation skills for successful teamwork and leadership.

Rating your ability to handle relationships

The real indicators of your relationship management skills are the results you get and the problems you manage to avert when working with other people.

The following brief self-test is designed to get you thinking about your strengths and areas for improvement in handling relationships.


Fill in the relationship management part of the attached questionnaire (PDF format).

Improve your relationship handling skills

Use the following tips to improve your relationship handling skills.

Know what you want from your interaction

Every time you communicate with someone, have a desired outcome – even if it’s just to establish or maintain contact. That way, you can know when you’ve achieved what you want.

Allow other people to have their emotions

If you accept your own feelings and know you can control them, you will feel much more comfortable with strong emotions in other people. Remember, just like you, they are doing the best they can.

Match other people to achieve rapport

You can subtly match some of the aspects of another person’s voice, posture and/or movement. As long as it’s unobtrusive, it will make the other person feel more comfortable. People like people who are like them.

Rapport the easy way

If there seem to be too many elements of body language, voice tone and movement to keep track of and follow the content of what the person is saying, just imagine the person has a motor driving them. Ask yourself ‘What speed are they running at?’ and just match that speed.

Talk their language

People who use mainly visual expressions will ‘get the picture more clearly’ if you also use visual expressions to ‘shed some light’ for them. If they use mainly feeling or touch-based words, they’ll ‘feel more comfortable’ if you use words they can ‘get a handle on’. And if you hear them using sound-related words, it will be ‘music to their ears’ if you use words which will ‘resonate’ for them. To make your written communication richer, use a mix of words that appeal to different senses.

Dealing with ‘difficult’ people

If you find a particular person difficult to deal with, put yourself in their shoes and guess at how they feel and how you appear to them. Also, rise above the situation and look objectively at the interaction between the two of you. These different perspectives will give you extra information and change how you feel about the person (and they will adapt their behaviour to reflect that change).

Key tip

Stay true to yourself. As long as you maintain rapport, others will respond to your passion and commitment.

Aim for a win/win outcome

In meetings and negotiations, don’t get drawn into nitpicking disagreements. Keep yourself and the ‘other side’ focused on what’s really important about your negotiation.

Monitoring your progress

For each problem area, notice what’s been better each day. You may want to choose a particular colleague as a test case for improving relationships.

You can also encourage feedback from people you work with – doing this should in itself improve your relationships with them as you are perceived as someone who genuinely wants to make a difference.