ERP 351: How To Cultivate More Relational Intelligence — An Interview With Dr. Adam C. Bandelli

By Posted in - Podcast December 20th, 2022 0 Comments

Although emotional intelligence is important in developing positive relationships, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Some of the factors that contribute to long-lasting relationships are establishing rapport, developing trust, and embracing inclusivity or diversity.

In this episode, Dr. Adam C. Bandelli talks about his research on the pros and cons of emotional intelligence and how this can make or break your relationships. He then introduces the concept of relational intelligence, going through each of its five essential skills. 

Relational intelligence, sometimes referred to as social intelligence, is the capacity to perceive, understand, and navigate emotions in oneself and others, and to use this awareness to effectively communicate and interact with others.

Dr. Bandelli, emphasizes that by developing your relational intelligence, you can improve your communication skills, build strong relationships, and effectively navigate social situations.

Founder and Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, Dr. Adam C. Bandelli is an organizational psychologist and seasoned leadership advisor with over twenty years of corporate consulting experience. In his latest book, “Relational Intelligence,” he details the five essential skills he has found to create life-changing relationships. Adam received his Ph.D. and master’s degree from the University of South Florida and now runs Bandelli & Associates, where he and his consultants help their clients unleash their true leadership potential.

In this Episode

7:14 Guest introduction: An athlete turned psychologist/leadership advisor.

10:12 Emotional intelligence plays a role in creating strong relationships.

12:30 Define relational intelligence and the five essential skills for developing life-changing relationships.

12:50 Building rapport: The ability to use energy to make a positive first impression on others.

18:04 Investing in deepening relationships through time and effort.

22:07 Celebrating diversity and inclusion.

19:08 Understanding and connecting with others.

40:56 Information on how listeners can access resources to support them in improving their communication and negotiating skills in relationships.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Practice active listening: Pay attention to others and truly understand their perspective, rather than just listening to respond. By actively listening, you can better understand their perspective and improve your communication skills overall.
  • Be comfortable in your own skin so you can come as you are to others and inspire them to do the same. Accept that people are different and that’s okay.
  • Find out who you really are, and if you need assistance, seek it from a therapist or a coach.
  • Honor your commitments to your partner, no matter how modest they may be.
  • Learn to nurture your relationships without expecting anything in return.
  • Do your best to bring out the best in your partner.
  • Spend time getting to know people so that you can develop trust through consistent and positive interactions.


Relational Intelligence; The Five Essential Skills You Need to Build Life-Changing

Relationships (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Facilitating Communication and Effective Interpersonal Relationships at Work: A Theoretical Model of Socio-Affective Competence (dissertation)

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

ERP 336: Strengthen Your Relationship with 5 Daily Practices — An Interview with John David & Ana Gabriel Mann

Connect with Dr. Adam C. Bandelli






Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins






Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 


Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Adam, thank you for joining us today. We’re going to be talking about relational intelligence. I understand that you do so much to support people in the way of cultivating leadership, and recognizing there are many ways in which we lead, and how relationships whether or not it’s in the workforce or in the home life. Before we get started in our topic, just for people who don’t know you, would you like to share a little bit about what got you interested in serving people in the way of leadership, and relational intelligence more specifically?

Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure! So I’m an athlete first, before a psychologist or leadership advisor. I grew up in the 80s watching Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson. It was really through playing basketball that I learned about leadership. I watched and got to participate on teams where you got to see motivation and leadership and all the aspects that make for a good leader. So when I got to college, and I realized I wasn’t going to be like Mike and go to the NBA, I had to come up with a Plan B. I always had a passion for psychology and kind of helping people and friends. So kind of directed my energies towards psychology. 

I took a class my freshman year called Organizational Psychology, and I had no idea what that meant. The professor walks in in a three-piece suit with a Rolex, and he starts talking about leadership and hiring people and coaching, mentoring. It was just fascinating! I wrote him a letter at the end of the semester saying that I had learned so much and would love to take another class, and he invited me to come see him present at the American Psychological Association in New York City. This is in the mid-90s, and he was presenting on a topic called Emotional Intelligence, which I had never heard before. Became fascinated with the subject, and really spent the next 10 years dissecting what EQ is, which ultimately led me to doing my dissertation on relational intelligence. 

So during those years, a lot of the research that I did was looking at both the positive and the dark side to EQ. Leaders are people in relationships. They can use emotions to inspire others, to motivate people, and galvanize them. Or they can use motivations to instill fear in people, to manipulate people. So if the research showed that there’s kind of pros and cons to using EQ, depending on the person’s interest, was there a set of skills that leaders can use or practice to really build long-term relationships with their colleagues or their friends or their peers? In the dissertation, found the five skills, did actually connect to each other, and they related to different things like engagement and job satisfaction and purpose and fulfillment. Like most graduate students, I put it on the shelf after, I didn’t want to look at my dissertation. But I started practicing those five skills personally and professionally, have been using those now for the last 15 years. I joined a global management consulting firm when I started my career, I spent about a decade there before I started my own firm seven years ago, and we really focus on helping our clients identify and unlock and unleash their authentic selves, so that they can bring the best for their people, teams, and organizations.

It sounds like you’re consulting in the professional field.

Yes, absolutely. Mostly with CEOs, senior executives, the leaders who run companies.

That’s been my experience in graduate school and recognizing in the field of psychology, I understood it to be an industrial organizational psychology, where psychology is applied to the business sector, and emotional intelligence is such an important aspect. It sounds like you just did an incredible deep dive. I think there’s more popularity around the term relational, and even relational intelligence. It sounds like it’s closely related to emotional intelligence. Is that right?

Yeah, the two are separate concepts, and I’ll take you through each of them in the moment. But EQ does play a role in building relationships. So if I’m building a relationship with you, Jessica, I need to understand my emotions, your emotions, and how we both manage emotions. But that’s really just one piece of the puzzle. Things like developing trust, or embracing inclusivity or diversity, there’s other factors in the relational intelligence framework just beyond EQ.

I appreciate you naming. I don’t know that I’ve heard it articulated that emotional intelligence has essentially a dark side, which it makes perfect sense. Like, electricity can be used to light a room, and it can be used to electrocute somebody. So it sounds as though we can run a deficit and be low in emotional intelligence, and we can also be high in emotional intelligence; we could use that high emotional intelligence for sources of good, if you will, and also sources of manipulation.

Yeah. So I did my master’s thesis on the concept Machiavellianism, which is basically people who use others to get to their means or enter their desired outcomes. So what we found is Machiavellian are not bad people or evil people, they just know how to use emotions to get to their outcomes that they desire. If that’s using a person to get to it, or getting a promotion, they are skilled at doing that. But they take the skills of understanding emotions and reading a room and getting to know people’s emotions to serve their purposes.

Okay, so you wouldn’t even label that, I hesitate to even say good and bad. But perhaps, how would you label that? Because you said dark side or shadow, is that how you say it?

Yeah, dark side, kind of the Star Wars thing. I would call it self-serving, versus relationally intelligent leaders are more serve others. That’s the real differentiating. People who are relationally intelligent, they put other people first, they’re serving leaders typically, versus being self-centered or only after your own desired outcomes.

Then it could also be collaborative versus competitive, and collaboration is looking at win-win and how people can all be feeling considered in the process. 

Okay, great. Then let’s go to the relational intelligence. 

So let me share a little bit of, first, the definition. 

Free Man and Woman Hugging Each Other About to Kiss during Snow Season Stock Photo

“We define relational intelligence as the ability to successfully connect with people and build strong, long-lasting relationships.”

That’s kind of the 50,000-view overarching framework. Within our framework, there are five skills, and I can walk you through each of the skills. The first skill is establishing rapport, and this is the ability to use energy, Jessica, to create a positive initial connection with other people. So when you think about building rapport, you think about things like making a good first impression, drawing people into the conversation, the choice of words that you use. We’re firm believers here that it’s not what you say, it’s actually how you say it that matters. Things like finding common ground with people. Eye contact, we’ve kind of lost that in COVID now. We’re talking to each other right now, but we’re staring at screens. But eye contact is really powerful to create that initial connection. Then, nonverbal behavior and body language. Are you leaning in when you meet someone, whether it’s in the dating romantic world, or the business world? Are you showing them that you’re interested in what they’re talking about? So great, relationally intelligent people, they know how to use their energy to connect initially with a strong another person. That’s the first skill. 

So as you are in your firm, consulting with people in probably high-executive roles, or people who are in management, this is incredibly important. Then as we’re looking at more intimate, romantic relationships, obviously, not only in partnering and how to cultivate relationship, but also how to maintain. Because we can take each other for granted, and we’re not necessarily investing in that sense of bondedness and goodwill, and that sense of connection can get lost. So it’s almost like this attentiveness, that I’m engaged and I’m present and I’m aware and I’m focused, that undivided attention. 

Okay, great. Is there any other example, and you’ve given lots here, that you want to say in regards to using energy to cultivate rapport?

The other thing is, I’m sure you’ve seen the iceberg analogy. There is always kind of what’s going on in our minds when we’re meeting new people. So we have our own self-perceptions, our levels of confidence and self-esteem; we have the perceptions that we have of other people, and stereotypes and biases, or unconscious biases. So that’s always going on under the surface when you’re stepping into a situation with someone on a first date, for example, how you want to show up versus how you think they’re showing up. There’s always something going on behind the scenes. So someone who’s relationally intelligent can kind of pick up on those things and tailor their energy. You don’t want to walk into a situation with super energy and scare people. I think we’ve all been in a situation where people come into the room and suck the life out of the room, or there are times when we walk into a room and people really energize and inspire us. So that would be the big piece of the first one.

It’s almost as if this rapport is this dance. It’s not that I come in with a certain agenda, and I’m not attuned to the person or the room, I’m just pushing whatever it is that I want to say or do. It’s very subtle, in my experience. There’s a sensitivity to recognizing, are people responding with, like what you described, with the facial expression and the nonverbal? Are they with me? Or am I talking too much? And how are they feeling me? It’s this give-and-take, that it’s this really sensitive zone of relating, and it can be really masterful if one is very aware and conscious of it. 

But I mean, what’s your experience? Do you feel when you’re consulting, people are very cognizant of this? Or is it something that’s just so natural that people are like, either I have it or I don’t have it, and it’s not very teachable? Yet, these things are very teachable.

Yeah. I’m a big Marvel fan, so I like to say it’s your Spidey sense. So going with your gut or going with your intuition. I can teach you how to make eye contact, I can teach you how to lean into a conversation or ask questions to find common ground. But the beauty of relational intelligence is that when you get really good at it, it’s an art. So both Adam and Jessica can learn about how to build rapport. But each of us are going to do it differently based on our personalities, based on our temperaments, based on our values, based on the cultural upbringing that we have. So the skill is universal, but how we apply it depends on our own wiring.

I like that. It’s not a recipe that just is plug-and-play, there’s a lot of nuances and being able to find one sweet spot, if you will, around how this all comes together, and to feel some sense of success. How does somebody know when it’s working?

I mean, if we go into the dating romantic relations world, if you get a second date, if you go on a first date, you have that chemistry. I mean, we’ve all been in a situation where you have that instant chemistry and you’re talking, kind of finishing each other sentences and those type of things. So if it’s in that setting. If it’s in a business setting, if you’re trying to get a sales deal, or if you’re looking to get a promotion, the initial time you meet someone, that first impression that you get. So those are kind of the things you can look forward to say: “Hey, I was able to do this and do it well?”

Or even if I imagine, I’m totally guessing here, but one is learning how to manage more effectively. Being able to walk away from a conversation with someone, they’re leading, feeling as though they were able to get their message across. But yet, the relationship is strong. It’s like, they walk away, almost like it was their idea, or they’re passionate about it. Then when I think about a long-term relationship and that rapport, it seems like a funny thing to apply to a long-term relationship. But how would you say it, I would love to hear from you.

Yeah, so the skills build on each other. So rapport for romantic relationships is usually the early stages, I call it the honeymoon phase. The first four or five months where you’re with someone, rapport is really important. But it then ties into the second skill, which is understanding others. This, Jessica, is the ability to be intentional about putting in time and effort to get to know someone on a deep level. This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. Because if we’re going to learn about each other, we’ve got to know our emotions and the emotions of our partners. 

But it goes deeper than EQ, it has to do with being a good active listener. 

Free Portrait of Couple Sitting on Bedroom Floor Stock Photo

“So great relationally intelligent leaders are people in romantic relationships, they listen to hear, they don’t listen to respond. That’s a really big difference.”

There’s power and curiosity and inquisitiveness. People who are curious and who are inquisitive are more likely to get better connections with folks. I think most people go through life wanting to talk about themselves. Or you look on men and women go on dates, men more likely to talk about their accomplishments and what they do well. If a man goes on a date and asks the woman questions versus bragging about what he’s done, he’ll probably get a second date faster, because he’s showing interest in her and he’s showing curiosity, he wants to learn her story. Then the fourth piece is really being empathetic. Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and show compassion?

So those four components make up understanding others. This is a skill that can play out at any point in your relationship, marriage or first dating, because you’re constantly understanding that person. If you’re growing together into a long-term relationship or marriage, you both should be evolving, and if you’re both evolving, there are things to continuously understand. When you first get married, when you have kids, you’re going to learn things about your partner that you didn’t know before when you have kids. So all those things kind of play into it.

Thank you, I appreciate you just laying out the different aspects. If I heard you, it sounds like: rapport, being intentional, curiosity, and also empathy. Is that right, did I get that?

So EQ, act of listening, curiosity, and empathy.

Thank you, and that’s helpful. Because even as you started talk about the understanding, and the act of listening, and being intentional, and being curious and the empathy. I was thinking, oh, how rapport relates to long-term relationship? I love that you just named it, and that people are always developing and evolving. So perhaps your partner, you might think you know them, and then you’re in a different season of life and you’re looking at them or the space that they’re in, and it’s different in how do you build rapport. It’s not like a new person, but there’s something there to be attentive to, and you’re saying this second skill of understanding helps calibrate it.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s personally and professionally. 

Gotcha. I guess I’m curious, is there any more you want to say about the second skill? Because there’s a lot there in of itself. I wanted to ask you on an aside, when you did your dissertation, did you have participants that you were working with?

Yeah. So what we did was for my dissertation, and we’ll come to this a little bit too, so I developed a test to assess relational intelligence, like the Myers Briggs or the Enneagram or the DISC. So my dissertation was kind of coming up with a theory and looking and seeing what does the research say about rapport and trust and diversity? Then we built our little assessment. As an IO psychologist, you know how to do all these advanced statistics and create tests. Then we went out and did a study with about 500 young professionals between the ages of 25 and 35. We wanted to see that if you have high relational intelligence, does it predict the levels of engagement that your employees have, or the levels of purpose and fulfilment that they have in their work, or how happy they are in their jobs? And what we found was that for people who are higher on relational intelligence, they have employees that work for them; they’re more engaged in their work, they’re more committed to their companies, and they’re more satisfied in the work that they do. So relationships matter just not in a personal setting, it matters at work.

So it matters across the board, and there’s a lot of criteria, and being able to quantify the benefit of developing the relational intelligence. Okay, great. 

Ready for the third skill?

Yeah, go for it!

So the third skill is another big psychobabble word. It’s embracing individual differences, and we define this as the ability to be authentic, then acknowledging and accepting that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences. So this big key word here is authenticity. People who are relationally intelligent, they’re comfortable in their own skin. So they’re willing to be open, honest, transparent. 

I’ll give you a very simple example. Probably four or five years ago, I would have never had a wall display behind me with 200 shoes. Because I thought my client would think I was crazy, or why does he have so many shoes? And in meeting with my own team, we were talking about it. They know that I’m a sneakerhead, and I collect Jordans. They were like, “You should display it. That’s part of your identity, that’s part of who you are.” So I did it, and it’s the thing clients know me for. Most clients don’t even know my name. They know me as a shoe guy, I say it in a joking way. 

Embracing individual differences is about appreciating racial and ethnic diversity. It’s about understanding and valuing that men and women think and behave differently. It’s understanding that sexual orientation can play a role in terms of how you understand others, or cross-cultural factors, or neuro-diversity, or mental health. So all the things that make us unique, however we define it individually, and that’s part of authenticity, those things need to be embraced by others if you want to build strong relationships. I don’t have to agree with your beliefs on any specific area. But do I understand and acknowledge that you have your own perspectives, I have my own? 

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“In a work setting, and I guess it plays out in a romantic relationship as well, people strive for diversity of thought. The only way you can create good ideas or get innovative solutions is to have people around the table who think differently.”

Agreed, that there’s so much more strength and richness when we have diversity. Rather than just partnering with people who think the same, and there’s no challenge, and there’s no real growth in that. For long-term relationships, and you named some very big prominent ones that can activate a lot of emotion for people. Also, I know things as like, introvert or extrovert, or the pacing, someone talks faster, or someone talks a lot versus someone who doesn’t say as much, or the spender and the saver, or the one that’s on time or the one that’s not as on time, or spontaneous versus planned. Like, all of these things can have a lot of rub when we’re in relationship, and you’re saying if we can hold space and not let this threaten us.

Yeah, accepting that people are different and that’s okay. But at the same time, being comfortable in our own skins to be ourselves, so we can come across authentically to others and encourage them to do the same.

Your shoe wall was one of the things I commented on, and I feel so much joy in being able to experience you a little bit more and what matters to you. It’s very personable. I actually asked you a few questions and you were sharing some stories. It also sounds like it took a little bit of development for you to feel really, and occupy that and hold that with comfortability? Is that right?

Yeah. It’s tied to the fourth skill, which is the most important piece in relational intelligence, and that’s developing trust. You can define that as the ability to be vulnerable, and risk being exposed to the actions and behaviors of others. So just to your point there, if someone’s going to be authentic, or if they’re going to develop trust in others, you really have to get under the hood and learn about who you are. There’s that famous saying: “Know thyself.” Like, you have to do the hard work, whether that’s with a therapist, or a life coach, or an executive coach? Like, how am I wired, what are my values, what’s important to me? How do I show up on my best days? How do I show up on my not so good days? What are my blind spots when I’m stressed? 

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“Really getting an understanding of who you are, if you do that, there’s a comfort that comes in terms of knowing who you are and where you stand, and then it becomes about how you develop trust with other people.”

So there are things our research has shown, we call them the 5C’s of things that both people need to do that are the underlying aspects of trust. So in a work setting, there’s competence: can I trust that you’re competent enough to do your job? There’s commitment: can I trust you’re going to honor the commitments that you make to me or the organization? There’s consistency: can I trust you’re going to show up the same day regardless of what’s going on outside of work? There’s character: can I trust that you have good values and ethics? Then courage: can I trust you to say things that need to be said, not just the things that people want to hear, on the things that matter most? So those things, any person, even in a romantic relationship, both people have to honor commitments to each other. If you make plans to go on a date with your partner, you should keep the plans. If you don’t, they’re going to lose trust in you. 

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“Trust is not just about the big, egregious cheating on someone or something like that. It’s these little things, these daily activities that people do, that strengthen trust over time.”

Another big piece that’s different with the way we look at trust, we have a concept called intentional generosity, Jessica. This is where people are, we like to use the farmer analogy at our firm. It’s when you’re continuously sowing into the relationships that you have with other people, without the expectation tit-for-tat that you’re going to get something back. If I’m in a relationship with you, I love you, I care about you, I’m going to give things to you because I want the relationship to grow; I’m going to invest in the relationship. Both partners, if they’re doing that kind of in a loving way, you’ll get relational reciprocity. You’ll get that feeling of we’re both being comforted, we’re both getting the support from each other. So I think trust in personal life is more important than professional life, just in terms of getting to that place where you really can build something with someone. That’s kind of the big piece around trust.

Yes. If there is that foundation of trust, it does really support the more reveal, as you described, and feeling comfort and being more open and vulnerable. Not to say, you can’t have the vulnerability without that trust. It’s just a much riskier place, and we have to kind of hold ourselves almost; sometimes we would choose not to be vulnerable in an unsafe situation. So as it relates to relationship, I appreciate you just naming that all. I also love the generosity that you’re describing, because it can really get tit-for-tat, or being aware of like this 50-50, so to speak. I had this couple on the show, and they had written a book about the 80-20 formula. That basically, we want to be giving 80%, and that it’s giving towards the relationship. It’s having this generative approach that does get out of that tallying that often happens in relationship.

Yeah. Again, if we go back to where we started, say the tallying is kind of self-serving approach of what am I getting if I’m giving? Whereas, selfless is someone who’s giving with the sense of wanting to invest in the relationship, there’s less of that tallying that’s going on.

I guess I’m really curious, as you lay this all out. It’s so informative, and I get a sense that any one of these skills and what is required for each skill, there could be a deep dive with it.

Yeah. I mean, you can spend a whole weekend on trust, there’s tons of books you can read on trust. Building rapport, diversity and inclusion, authenticity. These are all kind of meta-skills that when brought together, you’ll build life-changing relationships with people if you pile all of them together. But in and of themselves, you could spend a whole bunch of time doing a deep dive in any of the five of them.

Collectively, I guess the word I’m trying to think of is, how powerful it is that if one is actually paying attention to developing the relational intelligence, and like you said, the ways in which it benefits one’s life in many facets. It’s quite profound, and then also recognizing on a more common level, I don’t know that everybody’s hitting all these marks.

Well, you just give me a great segue to the last skill, which is called cultivating influence. This is defined as the ability to have a positive and meaningful impact on someone else’s life. So in a romantic relationship in a marriage, it’s about wanting the best for your partner, it’s about putting their needs before your own, in the small or big things. It’s about wanting them to become the best versions of themselves. It’s providing regular feedback. A lot of times, couples will not address something or go to therapy until there’s a fight. Well, you should be constantly giving feedback, positive or constructive, throughout the relationship. “How did that make you feel? How can I do this differently? Did you enjoy that date we went on?” Like, having a culture of feedback in a relationship is really, really important. 

So people who are relationally intelligent, they want to bring out the best in their partner. They want to see them achieve their dreams, or encourage and challenged them to push themselves. A lot of time, that’s having the tough conversations. If you see your spouse or your partner stopping going to the gym or not taking care of themselves, and they’ve said to you that’s important, can you be courageous enough to say: “Hey, you told me at the beginning of the year, you’re going to lose 20 pounds is a New Year’s resolution, and it’s April and you’re eating Oreos!” Like, those types of conversations. So it’s again, wanting the best for your partner. 

That’s why cultivating influence is the most powerful skill in the framework. Because if you build a strong relationship, where you’ve built some rapport, you get to know someone, you start the process of learning about them and understanding them, you’re able to embrace whatever they share with you and however they are, and all the differences that make us each unique. Then you really start to develop that trust, and you honor your commitments, and you show up consistently, and you show some vulnerability. When that relationship gets that strong, and I think in all relationships in life, the marriage relationship is the one where it happens the most, then you can start to bring out the best in your partner and challenge them to grow. And what you do with your kids, or how you do with your family, the role models you want to play for other people in your family. That’s where it really unlocks the life-changing aspect of relational intelligence.

There’s two things that I’m feeling in what you’re describing there. One of which is something that you wrote a book about recently, which is leadership, and your whole business is really focused on this, in the relational intelligence approach. So what I’m feeling in regards to leadership is, the type of leading and persuasion and influence that can happen when there’s strong relationship, there is that trust, there is that understanding, like that moves mountains. It’s such a different dynamic, and you use the word energy! It’s a different energy when one is leading through relationship, versus leading through any other way.

Hierarchy or rules and processes. I mean, we’re sitting in the middle, close to the end of the great resignation which had gone on the last year, where people are leaving companies rapidly; they’re not just leaving for pay, promotion, or titles. There’s that famous saying: “People don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.” So if you aren’t getting a leader that invests in you and helps you to grow and develop and gives you stretch opportunities, people are leaving because they don’t have those connections to their employers. 

And divorce rate is extremely high, and then even parenting and the impact that we make when we’re raising children.

Imagine we could learn these skills when we were in third grade. 

So one of the things that, also on the same note, reminds me in my graduate, I did a separate master’s and I did a separate PhD, and my Ph. D. programme is a little more holistic. One of the things they asked us to do was a martial art. Aikido, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but it covered it. It’s such a great metaphor, and I wonder if you would even find benefit in and learning a little bit more about it, given your work. Because it is a martial art about relationship. It’s connecting with the person so that you can lead them. Yes, there can be so-called combat. But how if somebody is coming with a line-of-attack or is attacking, the normal or the habitual tendencies are to want to fight back or to flee. But how to actually get off that line of attack, stay in connection, and be leading? I can’t do it justice, but it does remind me of the power of how, through connection, even if someone who’s attacking me, has a sword, and I don’t have a sword, that I can actually be in power, stay in connection, and lead and persuade in a way that I’m not harmed.

Not Cobra Kai, but I’m thinking I’m Mr. Miyagi in the 80s, kind of moving your body and being in motion with it.

Yes. The other thing that I thought of when you talk about being a person of intentional generosity and bringing the best out in someone, it feels very nicely fitting with, as I understand, the fifth stage of relationship, which is like this synergy. That we’ve now been able to work through our differences in a way that we can honor each other and we know how to work together, and now we can be so much greater than just the sum of two people. 

Yeah. Building a life together, raising children together. 

Yeah, wonderful. Well, I’m curious, is there more that you would like to share as it relates to relationship or anything that you’ve seen here?

Yeah. I think the biggest thing that I would say to your audience, if they want to pick up a copy of the book is, really two things I would say. 

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“If you are intentional about how you build relationships and you actually focus on it, and don’t just kind of go with the status quo or how things are, and if you’re authentic in how you do that, you’ll build strong relationships across all areas of your life.”

Most people go through life, when it comes to relationships: “Well, I just have relationships with my family, I see them every holidays, or I see people at work, we do our jobs, we go our separate ways.” If you just spent a little time and you go into work and ask about your colleagues, and want to learn a little bit about their stories, and what are some of the things they are dealing with. COVID gave us a really big opportunity to get a glimpse into more of the work-life balance aspects. For people who had young kids, they had to become teachers overnight and still do their jobs. So showing empathy for people and just common decency, and wanting to make sure other people are doing well. Some of the things that we’re probably taught at a young age, golden rules type stuff, but if people are intentional in doing that. And you can be comfortable in your own skin and kind of joke at yourself. Like, if you do those two things, you’ll build great relationships with people.

Yes. I love that you have the experience personally, and now you are a teacher, and you lead and you guide people in developing this skill. So I know that you know the benefit. But for someone who maybe recognizes they don’t have as much relational intelligence, what would you describe the trajectory here, as far as like what the path of developing this looks like?

So in our consulting work, when we work with clients, we typically do six-month coaching engagements. So at the start of the process, in January, you’ll be able to tell your listeners to go to our website, we’re launching our relational intelligence tests January 1st. So people can pick up the book now and read about an idea. But you can actually go onto our website and take the test and say, “Okay, what’s my relational intelligence?” But usually, that’s the start of any six-month journey where you kind of say, “Okay, I’m really good at building rapport. But I’m not so good at kind of being authentic. I kind of wear many masks or have different facades, with my work friends, my personal friends.” So you’ll get clear on where do you want to spend your time. So if it’s on being more authentic, then working with a coach, or writing in a journal and saying, “Here’s two or three goals I want to do around being myself around people, or being able to share more personal stories with my colleagues.” 

When I was in my teens, my father introduced me to Tony Robbins. So it was one of the first times that I learned about setting goals in all areas of your life. At the time, I was just an athlete setting goals, I wanted to jump higher for basketball. But that sent me on a journey of lifelong journaling. So I would encourage anyone if they want to grow in these skills, taking even a Myers Briggs or taking some type of assessment to say, “Okay, am I more extroverted or introverted?” Getting clear on the wiring, like we talked about, and then just setting some goals. “I’d like to make two new friends this year at my church or in my organization, or whatever social circles you’re in.” Then trying out some of these skills, going in meeting someone for coffee, whether it’s a man or a woman, just the relationship you want to build, and focus a little more on eye contact when they’re talking, lean in a little more, ask them questions, be curious. All the things that you can practice that everyone’s going to develop in their own way, and that’s the beauty of the art of relational intelligence. But that’s what I’d recommend.

Thank you. Do you find that after six months, people have grown quite a bit, after setting some of these goals?

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I just wrapped up an engagement last month with a leader who had worked with an organization for 30 years, and he was used to leading people who were 20 to 25 years younger than him, so a great mentor. Then he got promoted into a role where all of his new direct reports were his age. So the tactics and the playbook that he used to inspire people wasn’t going to inspire someone his age or older. So he had to adjust his relational intelligence, and he had to show a different side of vulnerability around saying, “Hey, I may not have all the answers, and we’re all kind of in the same boat.” Whereas, in his former role, he was kind of like the status quo, the guy who was talking to the younger employees. So we worked for six months, and he kind of shifted the whole thing to share more with his employees, take more feedback from them. So yeah, he saw a turnaround in six months.

Wow, that’s impressive, and that’s a testament that these are skills that can be learned. It’s so easy to think, “Oh, this person is so gifted socially, that’s not me.” Yet, there’s such a terrain here to be developed. Even as it relates to relationship, the trust, it occurs me that there could even be an assessment of like, “How much do you find me being trustworthy, or how much trust do you feel?” Looking at the components around consistency, commitment, these different things, and that could be worthy terrain to set some goals with that. If I really want to build my trust worthiness, what does it mean being a little bit more reliable, does that mean that I show my commitment more? Again, this could be subtle, or even in big ways. There’s so much here. 

Well, thank you so, so much for laying this out with us and giving us such great insight from your dissertation. I just want to say, having done a dissertation, oftentimes, a dissertation will be creating the assessment. So not only did you create an assessment, but you also did a study on top of it. So it sounds like two dissertations in one, a lot of work goes into that. I know that was a while ago, but still.

That’s so fascinating, I never thought I was going to. If you Google me now and look up my dissertation, it’s not called relational intelligence, it’s an even worse psychobabble term. But it’s the five skills and everything. So put it on the shelf, but I think just applying it. That’s been the beauty of it in my own life. To see over 20 years, my own challenges personally and professionally, friends and family, all the different things that happen in life, to see these skills still play out and to still have an impact on my relationships 20 years later, is really cool.

I think that’s the lasting, I don’t know the terminology, but that’s like the testament to these things being so worthy. That it probably motivates you to do more of your work, because you can see, and you can see how much it has a lasting impact. It’s fabulous. 

I would love to hear, and would you be willing to share a little bit more about your book?

Yeah. So the book is focused really on two parts. The title of the book is, Relational Intelligence: The Five Essential Skills You Need to Build Life-Changing Relationships. First part of the book, like we talked about today, is a chapter on each of the skills. At the end of the chapter is a playbook of four or five things you can apply right away to start practicing that skill. So very hands-on, kind of a playbook in a sense. The second part of the book, which is more exciting, kind of looks at what are the applications of relational intelligence? Now that you know these five skills as a reader, how do they apply to your family relationships? Every family has a black sheep or a golden child, how do you deal with those family members at the Christmas parties or the holiday parties and everything? 

Friendships. We all have the one friend in our group who’s the high-maintenance friend, or we have lifelong friends that we’ve known. How do you show up for those relationships? Then you look at the workplace, how do you network? Everyone says professional networking is important. Well, I can teach you how to build rapport and do it when you go to a conference or do things like that. So how does it apply to that. Then ultimately, in romantic relationships. From the honeymoon phase on your first or second date, to marriage, and how you build something and cultivate influence with each other? So the book is the playbook, and then how it applies to different areas of life.

I love that you have the practical application, I love that you have the research, and there’s so much behind what you’re offering. More than anything, I love that, again, it’s something that people can access and they can develop. It’s not something elusive or unreachable.

To be honest, I would say that if I was going to write a book about authenticity and vulnerability, I’d have to model it. I model it in my clients, but I wanted to model it for the reader. So the book is tied in with stories from my consulting practice, but also from my personal life; struggles with mental health and addiction, or issues that I’ve had with family members. So I tried to bring that to life. The book is not an autobiography, it’s about these skills. But I tried to interject aspects of myself that if you saw me on the stage, this guy has a PhD and he’s a psychologist, you wouldn’t know some of those stories. So I do that. It was a decision I made early on when I sat down to start writing it, is that if you want people to be more vulnerable and authentic, you need to be that with the reader. So your readers will kind of get that added bonus on top. 

I love it. I’m so with you in being able to be on the path and share and give real examples. That you’ve really done the work and you continue to do the work, and it continues to pay off. Is there anything else you want to encourage people to do? It sounds like after January 2023, you’re going to have the assessment available, and you have a coaching consulting company firm. Is that all on your website?

Yeah, everything’s on the website. So your listeners can go to We just relaunched our website. So the landing page, you can click on Relational Intelligence, you’ll learn about the book, you’ll learn about the assessment. We also have a two-day immersive, we call it the Relational Intelligence Experience. It’s a training that we take leadership teams or groups of people through, where they learn the skills and practice them right away with the people they are in the group with. So they’ll learn about that, they can learn about my team members, our social cause around mental health awareness. So everything’s on the website. Or your listeners can follow me at AdamBendelli on Instagram or LinkedIn.

Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us, it’s such a gift to have your voice around this. I encourage people to check out all that you have to offer, it’s incredibly important.

Well, thank you Jessica. This was great!

Signing Off

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication.

Stop the criticism loop, learn new ways to communicate
and strengthen the connection with your partner.


Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching