Soft Skills For Life: Relational Intelligence

Friendly people are caring people, eager to provide encouragement and support when needed mostRosabeth Moss Kanter

More Than Emotions

You probably don’t associate relationships with intelligence. We think on an emotional level when it comes to relationships. We associate relationships with how we feel rather than how we think. Relationships, when they are transformational, go deeper than the emotional level. Without intelligence, our emotions are like sheep led to slaughter. No relationship thrives or lasts long on emotions alone. Emotions need to be tethered to healthy thinking for relationships to be engaging and life-changing. Relational Intelligence not only helps us choose the right people to connect with but more importantly it helps us cultivate rich and transformational relationships. 

Relationship Regulators (S.E.C.)

Just as a room needs a thermostat to intelligently regulate its internal temperature at conducive levels, relationships need more than emotions to sustain them. What regulators can be applied to develop relational intelligence and deepen our relational equity with others? 


At a men’s retreat in the summer of 2015, I shifted my leg to avoid a tackle in a soccer game. The awkward shift resulted in an audible snap in my left leg. Suddenly, I was on the ground in pain, unable to put any weight on my leg. The men at the retreat did their best to help me get on my feet, but we realized a visit to the emergency room was imminent. At the nearest hospital, the doctor did some tests and diagnosed me with a severe sprain. It was a few weeks later when a specialist confirmed that the snap was a break in my left tibia and required surgery. 

After surgery, I was remanded to bed rest for a week and needed crutches to get around as my leg healed. My mobility was limited. At the time, my wife was seven months pregnant. Despite her state, she helped me do the things I couldn’t do on my own. She was a superstar! 

Without hesitation, the members of our church rallied around us. They ensured care of everything while I recovered, and my wife could only do so much. They brought their best to a tough situation, which made all the difference! We were buoyed by their presence. From that experience, I learned that having a support system is like having a rainy day money fund. You never know when you will need it, but you are grateful when you do. 

Don’t take for granted the friendships you have. Nurture them by giving your support any moment you can. Be someone’s rainy day fund without wondering if they will be yours. I have learned from first-hand experience that simply showing up may be all the support and encouragement people need. Through support, you are never a helpless bystander, but you exemplify this statement by prolific NBA scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo, “If I can’t score, I do whatever I can to support my teammates.” Little support can accomplish big things!


When I began running, I could barely make it through one mile without my chest burning like an overheated car radiator. I thought there were days when I would just pass out from pure exhaustion. What kept me going was the encouragement from my friends, who ran with me and were in better shape. They would slow down to run alongside me, and they spoke words like, “keep breathing”, “you are doing great,” “ you are almost there,” and “you have come too far to quit.” I must admit there were days I hoped it would rain cats and dogs, giving me a default excuse from running. 

The encouragement my friends gave me in those early days was the fuel I needed to get over the hump and habit of not running. Eventually, my body responded. Their encouragement deposited motivation and awakened a dormant passion for running which years later has become an activity I enjoy, not just endure. My running accomplishments, such as completing my first marathon in 2019 rest on the rich ground of encouragement that my friends laid. I am forever grateful to them. 

Never forgo an opportunity to fuel someone with encouragement. It has been known to carry people through seasons of great fatigue. Become an encouragement filling station in your relationships and you will ensure that others never run on empty. But you can hardly encourage without caring first.


In 2012, my dad passed away after a prolonged battle with brain tumors. When he was first diagnosed, subsequent surgery was required to remove the tumors. But after a few years, the tumors grew back, and a second surgery was not sufficient to eradicate the tumors. My dad’s health quickly deteriorated after they came for my wedding in 2007. When I visited my parents in Kenya in 2010, my dad was bedridden. My mum took on the role of breadwinner and caretaker. Against the advice of doctors and some friends, my mum chose not to take my dad to a nursing home but to care for him at home until his last day. When I asked my mum about it, she told me, “The good years I have spent with your father will not allow me to leave him in another person’s care when he needs me most.” Later the doctors and friends admitted the great job my mum did in caring for my dad until his death. She was able to do it based on her experience as a nurse earlier in her career.

She clearly demonstrated the “for better or worse, in sickness and health” portion of their vows. It is this attitude of care modeled for me that I have worked daily to repeat in my marriage. The greatest struggle with showing care is the risk that it won’t be reciprocated. But when care is genuine, your heart goes out to another without any consideration for what you will get in return. It is purely selfless. One of the greatest cellists of all time, Pablo Casals, observed, “I feel the capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance.”

Final thought: The Redwood tree is one of the strongest trees.  But the strength lies beneath the surface. Their roots intertwine with each other to provide strength through support and necessary nutrients to foster what we see above the surface. They can sustain strong winds because of this intertwining root support system. The success of our relationships can be traced to the intertwining effect of support, encouragement, and care.

Bonus: Questions to Assess Your Relational Intelligence

  1. What level of reliability or support do I show in my relationships?
  2. Do I create an environment of encouragement in my relationships? 
  3. Am I available as a friend?
  4. Do I invest my time and resources into my relationships? 
  5. How do I show care and compassion in my relationships? 

Keep on Keeping on!

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