Why Your GPA Doesn’t Matter: 6 Ways to Improve Your Relational Intelligence


How important is intelligence? It’s been said that A students become professors, engineers, or accountants, and the B or C students become their bosses. If this is true, then why is our society driven to achieve 4.0 GPA status, and why do we focus more on grade average rather then developing young leaders' potentials? Certainly a degree of academic aptitude is needed for success, but I would argue that relational intelligence (RI) can be just as importance to a leader's success as book knowledge. But how can we become more relationally intelligent if we aren’t taught this in school?

Here are 6 practical ways you can improve your relational intelligence:

1. Be proactive in conversations rather than passive.

People with relational intelligence are able to intentionally steer conversations with clarity and help set the tone of the communication. Their words and actions connect with people in a way that matters, as they speak with passion and inflection - not a monotone voice. They are careful to engage in dialogues and not monologues.

2. Practice self-awareness.

Steven Saccone gives a classic example of this in his book Relational Intelligence. “If you are familiar with the main character from the TV show, The Office (i.e. Michael Scott), you know how much he lacks self-awareness. Of course this contributes to the comedy, but the truth is, we all have a little bit of Michael Scott in us. In other words, we don’t always see how we contradict ourselves with our words, or what our deficits or dysfunctions really are, or how unaware we remain about how insensitive we can be to others.”

One practical way to begin to learn more about yourself is to take a personality test. Try the DISC,Myers Briggs, or StrengthsFinder to start. An objective view on your behavior can be extremely helpful. For more on how to develop this self-awareness and self-leadership, check out our blog on The Number 1 Secret To Being A Successful Leader.

3. Become an active listener.

Learning to be an active listener is realizing that everyone has a story to tell. While you don’t need to know every little detail, take the time to discover what is most interesting about a person, and draw it out of them. It's rare to find a person that is genuinely interested in others. Be that person, and it will draw other people to you. 

4. Be aware of the invisible dynamics of a conversation.

Pay attention to the body language and emotional cues of your audience. Sometimes what’s not being said is just as important and what is.  Someone with high RI is able to discern the subtleties of what is being communicated beneath the actual conversation and can use that to steer the dialogue forward.

5. Be engaged and present in the moment.

Avoid living a distracted life. Often, we find ourselves looking physically alert, but mentally we are disconnected from our soul and from others. Monitor the energy of both your body and your soul. Take time to revitalize and stay connected and centered. This is an art and takes a lifetime of practice. Learn what refreshes and reconnects you, and move toward those things. 

6. Be intentional about making yourself approachable, hospitable, and friendly.

Practice the art of hospitality by learning to engage other people. First and foremost, learn people's names. Make a file or contact card if necessary. Add any personal information you learn about the person such as favorite sport teams, spouses name, etc., and let this be a reminder when you engage that person the next time. If meeting someone new, don’t be afraid to research their background so you can find some common ground. If networking is not your strength, put calendar reminders on your phone to prompt you to reach out monthly to someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Likeability and winning others over is a strength worth leveraging. The time spent on relationships is always worth it and will increase your RI.

What are some ways you can apply these relational intelligence tips in your daily life?

If you enjoyed this post, you will also like 8 Ways To Be Excellent In The Workplace.