The Impact of Emotional Intelligence and Personal Relationships

As we look into the implications of EQ on both personal relationships and job performance, we will examine how Emotional Intelligence can affect these areas, as well as the ethical implications of doing so. Since a sizable aspect of Emotional Intelligence, as a whole, relates to the regulation of other people's emotions, the moral and ethical questions raised by this process must be considered. Similarly, if you are a business owner or manager and are considering using EQ to train employees, assess a possible promotion, and so on, it is again necessary to challenge your rights and responsibilities in doing so. First, we identify the ways that high EQ can affect our relationships.

When it comes to one's personal life, there are certainly going to be a wide range of views regarding what is, and is not, appropriate. The fact is that social interaction, to some degree, not only impacts, but actually determines the success or failure of most (if not all) of our personal relationships. Although there are some relationships that may be sustained without any expectations on one side or another, these are very rare and usually limited to parent-child relationships (and are certainly not always applicable then, either). Sustaining ongoing relationships with our family members, friends, and romantic partners requires some amount of Emotional Intelligence. In fact, some of what determines if a romantic relationship or friendship is going to be successful may actually be determined largely by the compatibility of two individuals' levels of Emotional Intelligence. While background experiences, values, and other characteristics are extremely important when determining compatibility, the level of each person's EQ is likewise important in determining whether a relationship will be successful.

That said, it isn't as simple as the level of EQ each partner has, but also the capability level of multiple aspects or domains of EQ and the compatibility (or lack thereof) between two individuals' EQ. Put simply, if two people had excellent Emotional Intelligence scores, it may not be as important as if other areas of their strengths and weaknesses are, or are not, compatible with each other. For example, one person may be phenomenal at memory but terrible at communication; if their partner is great with communication but struggles with emotional security, the two may be incompatible even if their overall EQ scores are similar.

Furthermore, aspects of Emotional Intelligence that may generally be positive, may not be appropriate for a particular relationship based on the experiences, as well as the Emotional Intelligence of the other party. For example, a certain level of charm and charisma can certainly be considered an aspect of Emotional Intelligence; they help regulate the emotions of others with the purpose of achieving a specific goal (whether it is receiving a vote or a goodnight kiss). However, some people demonstrate a particular skill in recognizing attempts to charm and may overlook the other attributes of their potential partner, due to a prior bad relationship with someone who was gifted with charm, but was an emotionally unhealthy partner. Simply, our prior experiences can predispose us to interpret certain EQ strengths and weaknesses in ways that may not be entirely accurate for the individual in front of us at any given moment. Because the human experience is so wide ranging, it is critical to understand that these variations in experience and background may affect the interpretation of one person regarding the behaviors or demonstrated social intelligence of another individual; we may easily find ourselves being prejudicial toward certain EQ attributes or weaknesses, and we may also find ourselves as victims of another's prejudices in these areas.

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Similarly, as many people have discovered throughout their lives, it can also be a challenge to get those with whom we have already had a previous relationship to recognize the changes that we make to our Emotional Intelligence. In fact, it is sometimes difficult for us to remember, ourselves, that we have grown and changed emotionally. It's very common for people with a long history together to struggle with not falling into old patterns of behavior, including those that are damaging and unproductive. For example, two siblings who have since developed better EQ and resulting habits may still gripe and grumble and behave the way they did as children when they are around each other. In fact, the people who have known us the longest have usually seen us at times when our EQ was not where it should have been; these individuals, thus, are often able to provoke us emotionally, stripping away many of the changes we have worked hard to make within ourselves. Old friends and immediate family sometimes have the power to undo years of EQ bolstering with incredible speed.

So what are the ethical issues regarding personal relationships and EQ? Due to the nature of personal relationships, it stands to reason there are many potential ethical pitfalls. When someone engages in a personal relationship, especially if they are dependent upon the other person -- like a child -- or have chosen to enter a relationship of their own volition -- like a spouse -- there must exist a certain level of trust within the relationship. In fact, many hold on to the belief that someone who would violate the trust they are given by a person they are close to would be an individual of particularly low moral character.
Unfortunately, having a particularly high EQ, along with the trust of another person, certainly has the potential to be highly destructive and damaging, but it doesn't have to be. While the value inherent to Emotional Intelligence, that of the ability to regulate the emotions of others, can potentially lead to destructive and manipulative behavior, it can also serve a positive purpose. Wearing your husband's favorite dress on a special date can be a positive use of Emotional Intelligence. Teaching your children to rely upon you to care for them when they jump into the water at a swimming pool is also a result of skills found in EQ, along with (usually) evidence that they can trust you based on past experience.

Emotional Intelligence places a high value on one's ability to manipulate someone else into certain feelings or behaviors to serve a purpose. When it comes to personal relationships, you want to make sure that you are not misusing your Emotional Intelligence skills. In business, you will likely be using your EQ skills for a number of different reasons, but when it comes to your personal life, a good rule of thumb as to whether it is ethical or moral for you to use your EQ skills, is to question your motivations. If you are trying to get someone to do something that is positive, healthy, or helpful for them, you are probably making the right decision and using your EI powers for good. Similarly, if you are using your skills for your own benefit and that of the other person in the relationship -- such as complimenting your wife -- this should usually be okay, as well. Alternatively, if the purpose of your use of Emotional Intelligence seeks primarily or exclusively to serve your own needs or desires -- such as seducing someone into bed -- then you probably shouldn't do it. This is, in many ways, akin to the idea that if your behaviors and words are not based in integrity, and you are relying solely on your use of Emotional Intelligence, you should probably rethink your choices. Whereas if you utilize your Emotional Intelligence skills in a way that is not meant to deceive, but rather to convey your genuine thoughts or feelings, it is probably ethically okay to do so.

Most of the time, when it comes to personal relationships, your actions will probably be very natural and you may not even process that you are utilizing your EQ skills. For some people, it does take purposeful thought and effort, even when it is completely genuine, as we are not all given the same natural Emotional Intelligence. But again, this is another opportunity to appreciate the fact that many Emotional Intelligence skills can be learned and your weaknesses can likely be transformed into strengths with some time and effort.

When discussing personal relationships and the role of Emotional Intelligence, it is also important to remember that not all social intelligence skills are about recognizing and regulating the emotions of others. For an individual's mental well being, it is absolutely vital that they learn how to recognize and regulate their own emotions. In fact, the inability or limited ability to do so may contribute to being one of the primary reasons that personality disorders are considered psychiatric disorders, rather than simply cognitive. For an individual who does not know how to recognize their own feelings, it is virtually impossible to regulate them; those struggling with borderline personality disorder or histrionic personality disorder are known for having limited ability to regulate their own emotions. Many of us, including those who are neurotypical and lacking mental or personality disorders, are able to recognize our own emotions, but may not always know how to regulate them appropriately. By increasing our own Emotional Intelligence, we are better able to recognize patterns and alter our behaviors to better handle our own emotions. This also is incredibly important when considering interpersonal relationships, as it helps us better learn what we do and do not want, and what we can and cannot handle.