How Relational Intelligence Shapes the Future of Work (Part 2)

From Technical Proficiency to Relational Mastery: 6 Elements of Relational Intelligence

Christine Samuel

14 min read

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Part 2: From Technical Proficiency to Relational Mastery: 6 Elements of Relational Intelligence

"We are inherently relational beings. Our ability to work and thrive is deeply connected to the quality of our relationships."

For too long, we have treated human beings as mere calculators of logic, neglecting the undeniable fact that we are driven by purpose, values, connection, and fulfillment. Deep within us lies an insatiable yearning for a sense of belonging, a longing to make meaningful contributions, and an innate desire for genuine human connection. Activating these fundamentals brings out the best in people and enhances their overall performance. The failure to recognize and tap into this essential aspect of our existence is a missed opportunity of epic proportions.

Whether we're navigating the vast landscapes of the tech industry, the intricate terrain of finance, or the robust machinery of manufacturing, the underlying truth is resolute: we work with humans.

At the heart of every endeavor is relationships. Building and nurturing connections with people should be the bedrock of our work. Within the interwoven fabric of our relational sphere, we can unleash and leverage the power of collective synergy, where the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. By acknowledging the significance of relationships and human connection, we can create a more harmonious and thriving work environment.

However, when it comes to organizational and leadership training, the spotlight is often directed toward the development of technical skills, strategic thinking, and the adoption of cutting-edge technologies. While topics like mindsets, diversity & inclusion, and mindfulness are occasionally touched upon, they often remain superficial, creating a deceptive facade of comprehensive learning.

Beneath this polished surface, the truth reveals itself: most of the training content revolves around intellectual comprehension, leaving a glaring void between theory and practice when it comes to fostering a positive workplace culture. This gap stems from neglecting a fundamental truth: we are inherently relational beings. Our ability to work and thrive is deeply connected to the quality of our relationships. It is imperative that we recognize the importance of our relational nature and incorporate it into the very fabric of organizational culture, training, and leadership.

Relational Intelligence serves as the missing link, weaving together the technical and interpersonal aspects of organizational and leadership training. It encompasses the essential elements that enable us to tap into its power, acting as the building blocks that strengthen our ability to connect, collaborate, and cultivate meaningful relationships while applying our technical knowledge.

So, let's delve into the essential elements that constitute relational intelligence—the very strands that, when woven together, enable us to tap into its transformative potential. With a clear understanding of these elements, we can bridge the gap between theory and practice, and create a workplace where the power of relationships is acknowledged, valued, and integrated into every aspect of organizational culture, training, and leadership

The Six Elements of Relational Intelligence


In the domain of relational intelligence, self-awareness serves as the cornerstone that fuels our capacity to connect and communicate authentically.

Just as the hardware and software within our information system shape raw data into meaningful information, our self-awareness allows us to make connections that deepen our understanding and foster optimal outcomes in our interactions. It is through these connections that we enhance our ability to empathize, collaborate, and engage meaningfully with others.

However, imagine a scenario where we lack awareness of our programming's operations and the quality of information being processed and conveyed. In such circumstances, the transmission becomes marred by static, signals are distorted, and messages get lost in translation.

To attain clarity and transmit and receive information with precision, we must cultivate self-awareness that originates from within ourselves. Self-awareness serves as the decoder, unraveling the intricacies of our emotions, thoughts, and values. It empowers us to discern between our own projections and reality, enabling us to navigate our inner landscape with purpose and integrity. Through self-awareness, we embark on an honest exploration of our unconscious programming and, when necessary, upgrade our system to align with our authentic selves.

By delving into the depths of our being, we cultivate a profound understanding of who we truly are. This self-knowledge equips us to express ourselves clearly and forge connections that transcend superficiality. It is through this process that we access our inner landscape with purpose and authenticity, integrating both our strengths and weaknesses along the way.

Indeed, self-awareness stands as the bedrock upon which the architecture of our relational prowess is built, laying the groundwork for genuine human connection. When we possess self-awareness, we become adept at navigating the complexities of our own inner world, allowing us to approach relationships with authenticity, empathy, and understanding.


Empathy serves as the vital conduit for seamless data exchange between human beings, enabling a profound interweaving of thoughts, emotions, experiences, and perspectives. Picture a vast and intricate web of relationships, where each connection represents a dynamic flow that shapes our understanding of one another. Within this intricate network, empathy plays a pivotal role in fostering an environment of safety, value, trust, and understanding.

Through empathy, we access a different kind of knowledge—one that surpasses mere intellectual analysis and emerges from the shared experience of stepping into someone else's shoes, seeing the world through their eyes. As we deeply immerse ourselves in the perspectives, emotions, and challenges of others, we acquire insights that surpass mere information. We forge connections that touch the very essence of our shared humanity, forming bonds that resonate at the core of our being.

In this transformative process, empathy cuts through the noise of conflicting opinions, allowing us to discover common ground. It calls upon us to set aside biases and preconceptions, creating a space where genuine understanding can flourish. When we actively engage with the perspectives of others, we expand our horizons, enriching our own personal growth and broadening our understanding of the world.

Empathy liberates us from the confines of judgment, transcending the limitations of self-centeredness. It empowers us to embrace the beauty of shared experiences and fosters an environment where differences are not only celebrated but genuinely valued. By cultivating empathy in our interactions, we contribute to the strength and resilience of our collective network. We nurture a vibrant tapestry of relationships, fostering an environment where growth and learning can thrive.

Attentive Listening

Listening is the act of creating a generous space where the intricate relationships of data can weave together to form meaningful information in real-time.

Often overlooked, the act of listening encompasses multiple dimensions that are vital for establishing meaningful connections and fostering understanding. Without engaging in attentive listening, we deprive ourselves of a wealth of valuable information and insights that are abundantly available.

Listening extends beyond the mere act of hearing words or deciphering non-verbal cues. It requires us to be open and receptive not only to the explicit messages but also to the underlying aspirations, worries, beliefs and needs that are being conveyed. Listening allows us to truly grasp the full depth of someone's communication.

Furthermore, listening encompasses more than just attending to others; it involves being attuned to ourselves. It requires us to be aware of our own biases, assumptions, and reactions that may arise as we engage in conversation. By recognizing and acknowledging our internal experiences, we gain insights into how our thoughts and emotions can shape our interpretation of what is being shared.

Through listening we open ourselves to see the landscape of various perspectives, experiences, and worldviews that are otherwise not available to us. By actively seeking to understand, rather than listening to prove our point, we expand our own horizons, challenge our assumptions, and develop a broader sense of inclusivity and cultural sensitivity. It enables us to respond with greater adaptability and relevance, allowing us to read between the lines in real time and capture what wants to emerge in the present moment.

Our act of listening allows us to show up and hold space for one another so that genuine new ideas and solutions can emerge. By creating an environment of trust and respect through attentive listening, we encourage others to express themselves authentically and vulnerably. This openness paves the way for transformative conversations where fresh insights and solutions can surface, unearthing possibilities that were previously unseen.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotion is the kinetic expression of intelligence, representing a fluid formation of data set waiting to be decoded and harnessed.

As human beings, we are primarily driven by our emotions rather than pure rationality. When we delve deep into our inner world of emotions, we unlock a vast reservoir of insights and pathways that enhance our ability to relate to others. Emotion, after all, is energy in motion, and understanding its inner workings grants us remarkable flexibility.

Emotions carry valuable data. When we comprehend the movement of energy underlying the push and pull of emotions, we gain the ability to ride the waves rather than being swallowed by them. By deciphering their messages, we can respond with intention and wisdom, rather than being overwhelmed or reactive. This level of emotional intelligence empowers us to make conscious choices, fostering healthier and more harmonious relationships.

Emotional intelligence is like a delicate dance that showcases the intimate connection between our emotions and how we interact with others. When we tap into the essence of what moves us, it gives us an encompassing view of our emotional landscapes. We become aware of what ignites our passions, what holds us back, and what stirs our souls. As a result of understanding our own emotional landscape, we have a better capacity to decipher the emotions of others. We become attuned to the subtleties and energetic undercurrents that shape their experiences, allowing us to form a genuine connection and capable of inspiring and motivating others.


Communication is co-creation in action, a collaborative act of weaving together ideas and meanings in real-time.

In sociology, social constructionism is a concept that examines how knowledge is developed. It proposes that truth is not an individual endeavor, but rather a result of social construction. Language, culture, and interpersonal interactions all play a vital role in constructing meanings and shaping our individual perceptions of reality.

We co-create meaning through our interactions, constantly influencing, and evolving our understanding of the world around us. Take, for instance, the interaction between a coach and their client. As the coach demonstrates attentive presence, thoughtful responses, and poses insightful questions, the client is empowered to construct fresh meanings and perspectives. What seemed like a daunting challenge at the start of the coaching session, is now perceived as an opportunity. This powerful illustration highlights how we can influence others through the construct we build together.

Our communication, much like the wind, possesses a noticeable sense of direction. This observation has been apparent to me throughout my experience in coaching and facilitating group discussions. Whether in one-on-one conversations with clients or in group settings, it becomes apparent whether the conversation is progressing toward desired outcomes or moving further away from them.

When clients focus on what inspires them, it creates a sense of closeness and connection to their goals. Conversely, when they dwell on problems, the distance between them and their goals widens. Similarly, in the dynamics of group conversations, there is a discernible sense of whether the participants are collectively moving towards solutions or gradually drifting away from them. It's like the experience of atonement, where individual voices harmonize and create a unified melody, or the experience of dissonance, where conflicting perspectives create discord.

Recognizing this directional aspect of communication is crucial. It helps us navigate conversations more effectively and make conscious choices. Instead of just reacting, we can purposefully choose our words, heightening our awareness of the conversation's trajectory. By being mindful of the direction in which our communication is moving, we can skillfully steer them toward fruitful paths.

At its core, effective communication revolves around clarity. Can we express ourselves in a manner that fosters understanding? Can our language honor diverse perspectives, and empower and inspire others to thrive? These questions form the foundation of purposeful communication. Like a well-functioning system, clear transmission is essential.

When we communicate without ambiguity, we cultivate an environment where others can also respond with clarity. By prioritizing clear communication, we create a space where mutual understanding and productive dialogue can flourish.

Relational Awareness

Nothing stands alone.

Relational awareness offers a transformative lens through which we can transcend the limitations of compartmentalized thinking. It unveils a fundamental truth: nothing stands alone. We are not solitary beings but rather interconnected, existing in a perpetual dance of being, belonging, and becoming through relationships. In my forthcoming book, "Beyond Thinking: The Power of The Heart," I dedicate a chapter to illuminate our Relational Nature, delving into its depth and significance. Here are some key insights:

  • The fabric of life is interconnected and made of relationships. There is nothing created and exists outside a relationship–not even dusk, a fan, a bug, the air we breathe, not even the sentence you are reading now. From our conception to death, all happen in and within relationships.

    Our relational fabric is also woven into our identity. Who we are can’t be described in isolation. I became a mother in relation to my children. I would’ve not been a mother if it was not because of their existence. You will not be a teacher in the full sense, without your students. Our identity is not fixed, but relational. With my parents, I am their daughter. I am a Torontonian in relation to where I live. I am a coach in relation to my coaching clients. I am an author in relation to my readers. We are relational beings and shape-shift all the time in the relationships we engage in. You can be a mother, but also a manager in relation to the people you manage, and a consultant in relation to your client.

  • Our sense of belonging is inherently relational. We include or exclude others by defining our relation to them. Contrary to common belief, the collective identity we assume is not fixed; rather, it varies depending on the context of our relationships with individuals or entities at any given time.

    For instance, as members of a country, we often identify with our citizenship, which gives us a shared national identity with everyone who lives as citizens of a nation. This shared national identity unites us with everyone who lives in the same country. However, we may also identify ourselves with a particular city, such as Torontonian, and exclude those residing in other cities. Sometimes, our identity may be based on skin color, such as black, white, or brown. We may feel a sense of belonging with those who share our skin tone, even if they live outside of our city or country.

    Recognizing the dynamic nature of collective identity empowers us to harness its unifying potential rather than allowing it to divide us. Regardless of our differences, there are always commonalities that can foster a sense of belonging for everyone. This is at the heart of inclusivity. By acknowledging the significance of shared experiences and values, we can transcend division and foster meaningful connections that embrace diversity while promoting harmony. After all, it is through our relationships that we find meaning and shape our identity.

  • The relational essence of our existence is deeply intertwined with language. The subject, object, and verb operate in a relational manner. We cannot describe an object or subject in isolation; it is through their relation, meanings are formed.

    To illustrate this, let's delve into the act of walking. When we say, "I am walking," it transcends a mere description of foot movement. It signifies a connection between our body and the ground beneath our feet. Walking is not a detached action; it involves an intricate interplay with the surrounding environment

    As we take each step, numerous factors come into play. When we walk, different things come into play. The surface we walk on, like a smooth path or a sandy beach, affects how we move. Gravity exerts its force, anchoring us to the Earth and shaping the way we move. Simultaneously, our own bodily sensations and proprioception contribute to the experience, allowing us to adjust our stride and maintain balance.

    Thus, walking is far from a passive act of dangling our feet in empty space. It embodies an active relationship with the world around us. With each step, we engage with our environment, responding to its cues and adapting to its conditions. The ground beneath our feet becomes an integral part of our journey, supporting and guiding us along the way.

    Recognizing the relational nature of walking provides insight into the interconnectedness of our existence. It serves as a metaphor for the broader web of relationships we navigate in our lives. This relational essence extends beyond our personal lives and extends into our professional endeavors as well. For instance, the role of a CEO cannot exist in isolation; it relies on a network of human interactions and organizational systems. A CEO's effectiveness and impact stem from their ability to navigate relationships with employees, stakeholders, and the wider business environment. Similarly, the role of a Product Owner is inseparable from the collaborative efforts of a diverse team working together toward the success of a product. It is through these relational dynamics that roles and responsibilities acquire depth and purpose.

By embracing this relational essence, we gain a greater understanding of how we are connected to the environment and the meaningful exchanges that enrich our lives.


You may ask, "What's in it for me, then?" Well, this revelation may not be immediately obvious if your understanding of relational awareness only scratches the surface. However, when you wholeheartedly embrace and genuinely observe its prevalence in your real life, not merely as a theory but through lived experiences, here's what changes:

  • ·When we open ourselves to the intricate web of relationships that surround us, we gain a profound understanding of how life supports and uplifts us at every step. This awareness empowers us to navigate through challenges and setbacks with a deep sense of trust and inner safety. Recognizing that we are never alone but interconnected with others and the larger fabric of existence, liberates us from the need to control or manipulate our surroundings to fit our limited understanding. Instead, we learn to flow with the natural rhythms of life and embrace the opportunities that come our way.

  • ·As we embrace relational awareness, we begin to realize that every interaction, encounter, and exchange holds the potential for growth, learning, and mutual support. We shift from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance, understanding that our lives are enriched through the gifts we both receive and give in our relationships. This recognition of interconnectedness brings a profound sense of purpose, meaning, and belonging. We need no longer feel isolated or separate; instead, we embrace our interconnectedness with compassion, empathy, and gratitude.

  • As our awareness of the relational nature of our world expands, the elements of relational intelligence — self-awareness, empathy, attentive listening, emotional intelligence, and communication —become easy to learn and practice. Why wouldn't they? With the realization of how interconnected we are and the understanding that the pain experienced by others affects us, while their well-being directly enhances our own, embracing these skills becomes a natural and intuitive choice.

Next: Stay tuned for part 3.

About the Author: Christine Samuel, the visionary founder of Inner Work Matters, is on a mission to elevate leaders' and teams' collaboration skills, resilience, and adaptability. She is available for coaching, training, facilitation, and speaking engagements centered around Relational Intelligence and its six pillars—Self-awareness, Listening Skills, Empathy, Emotional Intelligence, Communication, and Relational Mindfulness. With her expertise and passion, Christine facilitates meaningful change, empowering individuals and organizations to thrive in the rapidly changing world.

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What Other Experts Say About Relational Intelligence

To truly capture the essence of Relational Intelligence, I believe it's essential to explore multiple angles and perspectives. That's why I've gathered a number of definitions from different people who have delved into this fascinating concept. By sharing these diverse viewpoints, I hope to provide you with a more holistic and multi-dimensional understanding of what Relational Intelligence truly entails

The Academy of Management defines relational intelligence as "a combination of emotional and ethical intelligence that involves the ability to be aware of and understand own and others' emotions, values, interests and demands, to discriminate among them, to critically reflect on them and to use this information to guide one's action and behavior with respect to people."

Renowned relationship expert Esther Perel defines it as the ability to connect with others and establish mutual trust. It involves understanding boundaries, and work habits, and navigating disagreements and trust violations.

According to Steve Saccone, a leadership development expert, “Relational intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and comprehend knowledge as it relates to interpersonal dynamics,” He believes, as we develop this intelligence, we demonstrate increased love, respect, and trust in our relationships, ultimately elevating our influence.

Relational Intelligence isn't just a buzzword; it's a fundamental aspect of effective communication, strong collaboration, trust building, and lasting relationship.