RW and Emotional Intelligence

A Cousin to Relational Wisdom

Relational wisdom (RW) is similar to a psychological concept known as “emotional intelligence,” which is often referred to as “EI” or “EQ” (emotional quotient). Although there are major differences between RW and EI (as detailed below), both concepts encourage an understanding of the ways that human neurology (which is, after all, designed by God!) affect our emotions and relationships.

Emotional intelligence has been defined as the ability to identify, assess, and manage the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. This concept first appeared in psychology circles in 1920 and has been studied and refined ever since. It was popularized by Daniel Goleman in 1995, whose book Emotional Intelligence spent over eighteen months on the New York Times Best Seller List.

The concept has gained further exposure through Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves, authors of the best-selling Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and founders of TalentSmart, Inc., a consulting firm that serves 75% of Fortune 500 Companies. Ken Sande has attended their training and qualified as an Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer.

These three psychologists, Goleman, Bradberry and Greaves, describe emotional intelligence as being made up of four core skills that are similar to those in the relational wisdom paradigm: self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and relationship-management (essentially the bottom two-thirds of the RW paradigm).

Although the EI model does not include a focus on God, these authors acknowledge that people’s world view and values, which are often tied directly to religious beliefs, can have a significant bearing on the four core skills of emotional intelligence.

Extensive Evaluations, Proven Benefits

Through over 700,000 individual appraisals, Bradberry and Greaves have demonstrated that emotional intelligence is the single biggest predictor of workplace performance (a far higher correlation than IQ). More specifically, they’ve found that 90% of the top performers they’ve studied are high in emotional intelligence. Conversely, just 20% of bottom performers have high emotional intelligence.

Not surprisingly, people with high emotional intelligence also earn more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. High emotional intelligence has also been shown to correlate to enhanced empathy, higher stress tolerance, greater flexibility to change, and even better health and recovery from illness. (Click here to learn of additional workplace benefits.)

Online Assessment

The books written by these three respected psychologists provide valuable insights into the the ways that our God-given neurological and hormonal systems affect our emotions and relationships, as well as ways that people can improve their relational skills. Therefore, these books are required reading for RW360’s Certified Relational Wisdom Instructor training. In addition, the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 contains an online assessment that helps people identify their relative strengths and weakness in emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence Has Downsides

Although secular materials on emotional intelligence can have value (see Common Grace RW: Teaching and Learning from Non-Christians), Christians should be aware that these materials, as well as emotional intelligence itself, can also have significant downsides.

As a growing number of secular articles indicate, high levels of emotional intelligence can actually contribute to several relational problems, including:

  • Over analyzing people and situations, which can become emotional exhausting and paralyze decision making
  • Excessive self-criticism
  • An inclination to agree to questionable actions out of sympathy or excessive sensitivity to others’ emotions
  • Using emotions to side step questions and critical thinking by others
  • Difficulty shifting our focus from single individuals and relating effectively to groups of people

But there are even deeper problems. Secular materials on emotional intelligence typically ignore God’s existence, the reality of sin and the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. This leaves EI open to several serious distortions.

First, since traditional teaching on EI lacks an objective moral compass, people may feel free to do “what is right in their own eyes.” This leaves them open to the temptation to manipulate others, either intentionally or unintentionally, for their own advantage (often referred to as “the dark side of EI“).

Second, since the primary motivation for improving EI is usually personal advancement (e.g., job promotions or increasing income), these relational skills can easily be used for selfish reasons rather than the good of others, which often requires personal sacrifice.

Third, apart from the transforming power of the gospel, growth in EI depends entirely on human effort. Many people can see some improvement in a relational skill through shear will power in the short-term, but without the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, these changes are often superficial and short-lived.

An Opportunity to Go Beyond Emotional Intelligence

As Christians educate themselves on the benefits and deficits of EI, we can initiate conversations to introduce others to the distinguishing qualities of relational wisdom, which include:

  • Seeing the human brain and all of its marvelous functions as being designed by God to enable us to know him, experience his love and enjoy fulfilling human relationships.
  • Recognizing that sin has impaired the brain, causing it to perform erratically, which leads to harmful behavior, conflict and broken relationships.
  • Through the gospel, God has provided a remedy to the damaging effects of sin and a way for us to replace our erratic, harmful behavior with consistent, beneficial behavior.
  • The motivation for developing relational wisdom is to improve our ability to love and serve God and the people around us rather than advancing our own interests at their expense.
  • The Bible provides a proven and objective moral compass that shows how to use our relational gifts and abilities to serve and bless rather than use and harm others.
  • God himself empowers us to improve our relational skills through the transforming power of the gospel and the indwelling work of his Holy Spirit.
  • Initial development of RW skills is facilitated through easy-to-learn-and-apply acrostics.

–Ken Sande