Seeking First to Understand: The Key to Emotionally Intelligent Interpersonal Communications
Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was ahead of its time in highlighting keys for emotionally intelligent interpersonal communication. Relationships are strengthened by building a foundation of shared love and respect while inviting deeper levels of trust, communication, and understanding. In terms of fostering strong, healthy connections with others, anyone can develop simple skills that water the roots or relationships while helping couples get through stressful times. Here are a few secrets to get started:
First Things First: Emotionally intelligent communications follow habit #5 in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
First Things First: Emotionally intelligent communications follow habit #5 in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. The ability to understand the feelings of others is a core quality that contributes to healthy relationships and social connections. Emotionally intelligent interpersonal communications begin with this type of intentional communication (see also ‘Emotionally Intelligent Leadership for Professional Success‘) (see also ‘Emotionally Intelligent Leadership for Professional Success‘) (see also ‘Emotionally Intelligent Leadership for Professional Success‘).
Partners who seek to understand one another share a deeper level of trust and freedom to express themselves. This strengthens the awareness of each other’s feelings and needs which drives close connection and crucial communication. These types of harmonious relationships are built when partners strive to keep their spirits up by focusing on their shared understanding of one another (see also ‘Are Relationships Supposed To Be Hard?‘) (see also ‘Are Relationships Supposed To Be Hard?‘) (see also ‘Are Relationships Supposed To Be Hard?‘). When partners don’t feel valued, common symptoms like withdrawal, depression, anger, and apathy ensue.
Who Cares: Theodore Roosevelt was credited with stating that “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Emotionally mature inter-personal communications lay a framework that says, “I care.” Create an atmosphere in your relationship that invites a closer connection with simple strategies that signal care and consideration.
Emotional intelligence (see also ‘Thinking Your Way To Success With Emotional Intelligence: Here’s How To Do It‘) includes the ability to recognize and differentiate various emotions. By pointing out your willingness to have compassion, care, and concern for the perspective of your partner, you will stimulate the development of emotional intelligence as you strengthen the walls of protection around your relationship.
In everyday situations, partners can invite opportunities to engage in non-threatening conversations by observing the circumstances that surround them in real life, movies, or other forms of media. As partners discuss current events, they can engage in conversations about how others might be thinking or feeling. This opens the door of opportunities toward greater connection. By emphasizing your level of care to your partner, you are inviting adaptability and openness to change instead of demonstrating your desire to dig in to maintain power and control with positions that won’t budge.
Listen Up: Before attempting to be understood, influence others, or make decisions, our priority must be on listening for content, emotion, and context. Emotionally mature interpersonal communications stem from actively engaged attentive listeners. When partners believe they are heard, a type of magic occurs where there is often no need for a solution to a problem that presented itself. Often in coaching, clients will tell me they feel so much better after sharing what was on their minds. What’s the secret? Usually, there was no quick fix or strategy offered – all I did was listen intentionally to the words coming out of my client’s mouth.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: As active listeners, intent on understanding the other person, we set our selfish ambitions aside and allow our partner to finish before we speak. A lack of interruption conveys mutual respect that says, “You matter to me, and your thoughts are important.” As we listen, instead of articulating our next thought and formulating our perfect response, the other person feels valued, respected, and loved. Emotionally intelligent communications are interruption-free. These communicators listen fully until the other person is finished speaking before formulating an answer. Under pressure, partners may feel tempted to engage in destructive patterns that only lead to future harm.
What Was That?
What Was That: We ask great questions and discover more of the other person’s perspective when we are committed to emotionally intelligent interpersonal communications. Learning to refine our questions gives couples a better overall understanding and presents opportunities to discover the unknowns of where the other person is coming from. Open-ended questions allow us to paint a picture that is not possible with simple “yes” or “no” answers.
With open-ended questions, thoughts and feelings reveal themselves as doorways to deeper connection. Invite connection by asking, “How did that make you feel?” “Can you share more about that?” or other questions that start with who, what, where, when, and how. It’s usually best to avoid questions that ask “Why,” as they tend to put the other person on defense.
Couples who inspire curiosity are more aware of opportunities to find things they have in common. By inviting inquisitiveness into the relationship, it makes it easier for partners to identify with shared experiences that would not be discovered outside of curious questioning.
Mutual Understanding: We confirm our understanding by asking questions for confirmation. This is especially useful after a conflict when tensions are high and emotions are elevated. By ensuring the other person feels fully understood, couples recognize that while conflicts happen in every relationship, the other person is committed to understanding our side, discovering our emotions, and enhancing empathy that will help them express their feelings more fully in the next conflict. Mutual understanding leads to emotional resilience (see also ‘From Regrets, Discover GRIT & Resilience‘), serving as a powerful asset for those who wish to experience greater contentment in their relationships.
Embracing Empathy: “Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another,” according to Alfred Adler, the founder of the school of individual psychology. The ability to see how other people see and feel about things is a critical component of having more meaningful relationships. When we put ourselves aside and focus on understanding the head and heart of another person, our social sensitivity signals our level of care.
The moment you decide to focus on empathy, you can be sure that you’re on the right path toward winning in all your relationships. More than just emotion sharing, empathy means taking another person’s perspective and doing your best to try to walk a mile in their shoes. Partners who are capable of being empathic and kind are sure to demonstrate the compassion that provides a solid foundation of inviting empathic responses from the other party in their relationship. While humans are born with the capacity for empathy, interpersonal relationships often need help to encourage the kinds of attitudes that cultivate this capacity.
The Body Keeps the Score
The Body Keeps the Score: Emotionally intelligent communications are centered in a holistic approach to communication. Watching for non-verbal cues in body language helps us spot subtle signs that invite connectedness. Start by practicing your attempts to recognize facial expressions in one another. It’s hard to engage empathy when you can’t read the other person’s facial expressions and body language.
Finally, Practice Self-Care
Finally, practice self-care. Emotionally intelligent interpersonal communications cultivate calm that not only creates healthier interpersonal relationships but also helps your immune system, reduces stress levels, and enhances cognitive function as you age.
When all is said and done, emotionally intelligent interpersonal communications help couples fortify their resilience so they can bounce back after difficult experiences (see also ‘How To Bounce Back From Anything‘) and have a better foundation for success in all areas of life. What are some ways you are practicing the presence of emotional intelligence in your relationship?