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Relationship Management

map and compass

Written by Kimberly Thomson

Out of all the components of emotional intelligence, relationship management is the most fundamental to your survival. Think of your first years in this world. Did someone instruct you to love your caregivers, cry when you needed help, or laugh during a game of peek-a-boo? It was likely natural and instinctual to engage in relationships with others, because your survival depended on it and your perfect little body was made for it.

So what happened as you entered the next phases of life? Why did it all get so complicated? Well, think about the rules and constructs you began to learn about your family, community, and larger society. Everything you learned became your own personal roadmap to navigating the complexities of relationships, which would work great if we were all looking at the same map. The problem is no one has your map. No one sees the routes you are taking or even where you are intending to go unless you ask someone to sit down and look at it with you. 

When was the last time you did that, before you found yourself lost and scared and really pissed off that no one knows where you are? This is where emotional intelligence can save the day. Before you get lost, take a look at these simple tips from the folks who study relationship maps:

  1. Before involving anyone else, find out where you are in your relationship map and put a big “I am here!” sticker in that spot. This is a time to practice some of the earlier skills of emotional intelligence and take an honest look at yourself, likely with a healthy dose of self-acceptance. Sometimes we find ourselves places where we would rather not be, but marking the spot allows other people see where you are. Remember, you won’t get found if you continue hiding.
  2. Decide on where you are trying to go. Use the information you gathered in step one and what you know about the other person’s map to make this decision. This can be a tricky step if we don’t have enough information about the other person. Do not make it up. Fill in what you can, and leave the rest as unknown, uncharted territory. It will only be more difficult to plan a route with a made-up map. Remember, everyone has their own personal map and there is no way to know what it looks like without asking.
  3. Plan the route, keeping in mind where you might find barriers. If you are working with limited information, this will be a harder route to navigate. Your needs are important here so plan accordingly. Be honest with yourself about the risks you are willing to take to get there. Set boundaries, take stock of your skills, and if you find yourself too unprepared for the adventure stop and figure out what you need to move forward. Ask another person to look over your route and offer their advice, scout around and try and find a new viewpoint, or brush up on some necessary skills before hitting the trail.
  4. This is where it really begins. Getting out there. If you’ve traveled through relationship maps at all, I bet you already know this is where the unexpected happens. You might find the route to your destination is easy sailing, or you could find yourself stuck in every few steps. The good news is there are always more routes you can take when you know where you are and are ready to travel.