Practices of Relational Intelligence with Others

Practices of Relational Intelligence with Others

The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the mind and heart of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other.

– Diana Fosha

Relational intelligence is a term I use for the people skills that allow us to navigate our world, especially our people world, competently, effectively, skillfully.

Human beings are social beings, evolutionarily hardwired to connect. We are born, raised, schooled, and rewarded or repudiated in kinship families, tribes, societies, and cultures, for better or worse.

We’ve all had the experience of relationships that derail our resilience: we’ve been let down, had our feelings hurt, been betrayed, been treated unfairly. We may be part of communities that have been oppressed and discriminated against or that have oppressed and discriminated against others.

Yet people can also provide both the best refuges and the best resources for healing from any pain we have ever experienced, especially the pain we’ve experienced in relationships.

People can act as genuine refuges, offering respite and sanctuary from pain or grief, especially pain and grief caused by other people. The empathy and understanding offered by compassionate companions allow you to regroup, restore your faith in yourself, in other people, and in life itself again, and recover your resilience.

People can act as resources.  You learn response flexibility and recover your resilience from role models, advisers offering wise counsel based on their experience, and from people who provide material resources (such as financial or logistical assistance) or links to those resources. People create safety nets — in families, communities, and societies. Whenever a difficulty or disaster strikes, that safety net is already in place.

Relational intelligence allows our brains to create bonds with others that sustain us through thick and thin.  Research show that these bonds provide us with a deeper sense of happiness and well-being than anything else in the human experience.  They are among the essential resources that sustain our resilience.




Additional exercises are available in Resilience: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster.