It is always shocking to hear how some men act like savages when it comes to dating women. I’ve listened to stories from many of my female clients about some of the appalling behaviors they experience. There are stories of the stereotypical narcissists that love talking about themselves, their accomplishments, and their net worth. There are stories about the emotionally unavailable who can’t express their thoughts and feelings when frustrated or angry. And unfortunately, there are the stories of men who lie and use women to satisfy their own selfish interests.
Although some men behave like this, many of us genuinely want to meet a good woman and start a healthy, stable, and committed relationship. We were taught at a young age by our mothers about how to respect and treat women. As we matured, some of us developed the self-awareness and situational judgment needed to come to a relationship looking to give rather than receive. Despite the insights and wisdom that some men learn over time, one of the greatest factors that determines how successful they will be in dating and romantic relationships is what I call Relational Intelligence.
Relational Intelligence is the ability to successfully connect with people and build strong, long-lasting relationships. It is a set of skills that when learned and put into practice enables two people to develop a long-term committed relationship based on intentionality, authenticity, and trust. In dating, the five essential skills of relational intelligence can help you find a partner to build a life with. These skills will help you create a strong initial connection when you meet someone new for the first time. They’ll help you understand a person on a deep level, which lays the foundation for developing lasting intimacy. They’ll help you embrace all the good, bad, and ugly about your partner. And they’ll help you have a positive influence on the growth of your significant other.
What are the 5 Essential Skills of Relational Intelligence?
- Establishing Rapport: This is the ability to use ENERGY to create an initial positive connection when meeting someone for the first time. In dating, great rapport builders know how to make a strong first impression. They bring excitement and enthusiasm to conversations by drawing others in and finding common ground. They know how to use nonverbal communication and body language to show interest in what others are communicating. They make good eye contact to build credibility, convey trust, and put others at ease. They are also observant and can adjust their behavior in-the-moment to keep people engaged in the conversation. Taking time to establish rapport with someone shows them that they are important, that you value the time you’re spending together, and that you want to continue to learn more about them.
- Understanding Others: This is the ability to be INTENTIONAL about getting to know someone on a deep level. For men, this can often be challenging. Most men tend to focus on themselves and want to impress a woman. They’ll talk about their accomplishments, their wealth, their careers, and what they bring to the table. Relationally intelligent men don’t need to do this. They possess a confident humility, which enables them to put themselves aside and truly take the time to learn about a woman. They have strong self-awareness and emotional intelligence, which enables them to understand their emotions, the emotions of their partner, and how to effectively manage emotions when challenges arise. They are strong active listeners. They don’t listen to respond. They listen to understand and give a woman the space to express herself freely. Relationally intelligent men are also curious and inquisitive. They ask questions and genuinely want to learn all about their partner. And they’re empathetic and compassionate. They can put themselves in another person’s shoes, which lays the groundwork for a relationship to grow.
- Embracing Individual Differences: This is the ability to be AUTHENTIC in acknowledging and accepting that everyone comes from different backgrounds and experiences. Embracing all aspects of your partner’s life is critical to the long-term health and sustainability of any romantic relationship. To do this, you must bring your true self to the relationship. There cannot be any ulterior motives, self-serving tendencies, or deception. Showing consistent love, support, and encouragement goes a long way. It also creates the conditions through which both individuals can let their guards down and truly be themselves. You cannot develop trust and emotional intimacy with a woman unless she feels comfortable and safe expressing all aspects of herself with you.
- Developing Trust: This is the ability to be VULNERABLE and risk being exposed to the actions and behaviors of your partner. To truly develop trust with a woman, a man first needs to understand how he’s wired and what makes him tick. I call this the “mirror test.” You cannot build trust in a romantic relationship if you don’t have a deep understanding of who you are at your core. Once this foundation has been established, there are several underlying factors that contribute to how quickly trust is developed between two people. I call these the 5 C’s (competence, commitment, consistency, character, and courage). For example, you must honor your commitments to your partner to make them feel important. You must show up consistently for them in both good and bad times so they know they can count on you when it matters the most. And you must be a man of integrity. Your partner must know that you’ll do the right things when situations or circumstances require it.
- Cultivating Influence: This is the ability to have a positive and meaningful IMPACT on your partner’s life. Influence is not about manipulation, controlling your significant other, or power hierarchies. It’s about putting the needs of another person before your own. It’s wanting the best for your partner and striving to help them grow. Sometimes this requires tough love or holding your significant other accountable to commitments they’ve made to you, others, or themselves. It’s also about genuinely caring about their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Relationally intelligent people want to bring out the best in those around them. This is important in your most intimate relationship as you should want to play a role in helping your partner reach their full potential.
Practical Tips When Applying Relational Intelligence to the Four Stages of Dating
The Honeymoon Stage: This stage usually lasts the first 3-4 months of any romantic relationship. Establishing Rapport and Understanding Others are the two skills that are important to master during this phase of a relationship. From the very first date you need to bring energy and excitement to the relationship. Do you genuinely show an interest in getting to know a woman? When you sit down for the first time, are you focusing more on her and less on yourself? Are you listening more than you speak? Do you use nonverbal behavior and body language to communicate your interest in getting to know her story? Do you use humor when appropriate to lighten the mood? It’s important to find common ground on shared hobbies and interests. Make sure to always practice active listening so that she feels heard and understood. Be curious. Ask her lots of questions. Get into what she’s passionate about, what makes her tick, what are her hopes and dreams for the future. The most important thing at this stage of a relationship is being authentic and intentional in getting to know your partner. If you’re self-centered or only focused on what you can get from her the relationship will end quickly.
The Reality Stage: As the honeymoon phase starts to wear off a couple enters the reality phase of a relationship. This is where both individuals have moments when they say to themselves, “Oh shit, what did I get myself in to?” This is a natural part of the development of any healthy relationship. It is where the Relational Intelligence skill of Embracing Individual Differences becomes so important. As I mentioned above, authenticity is the key factor during the reality phase. Are you bringing your full self to the relationship? Can you let your guard down and be the real you? No acting or putting on a show. No behavior modification to try to impress her. Just be you. As a man, you must model this behavior for your partner. It will encourage her to feel more comfortable being herself. When this starts to take place, you must be open and accepting of all aspects of who she is — the good, bad, and ugly. Her family of origin, habits and behaviors that have been learned along the way, and her unique personality all play a role in how she shows up in your relationship.
The Adjustment Stage: If a couple moves past the reality stage of a relationship, they step into the adjustment phase. This is where Developing Trust becomes so important. To be open and vulnerable with your partner requires time and mutual investments made by each individual. Vulnerability is a hard thing for many men to practice. Since childhood many of us are taught not to show emotion and never to admit a flaw or weakness. We become accustomed to wearing masks to hide our insecurities. However, if you want a relationship to grow over time you must learn to let go of the facade. Express your doubts, fears, and worries to your partner. Talk about setbacks, failures, and lessons learned from adversity you’ve faced along the way. This will encourage her to open up about the same things. The adjustment phase is also the time to practice intentional generosity. This is where you consistently give to the relationship without the expectation of getting something in return. Do you remember to do the little things you did during the honeymoon stage to make her happy? Do you put her needs and desires before your own? Do you take time out of each day to tell her how much she means to you? Do you find time each week for a date night? These are often some of the small details that we forget to do when life gets busy, which can make a relationship get complacent over time.
The Lasting Intimacy Stage: Relationships that lead to marriage are all about the life you build together. It’s about wanting the best for your partner. This is where Cultivating Influence comes in. Once you step into this phase of the relationship it’s about bringing out the best in your partner and wanting her to reach her full potential. Do you regularly encourage her in her professional career? Do you find time to talk about your future together? Do you challenge her to remove bad habits and behaviors from her life? Do you allow her to provide you with feedback so that you can develop and grow as well? Cultivating Influence is the most powerful skill of Relational Intelligence because when practiced it serves as the cornerstone for the long-term sustainability of your relationship. Of course, there will be ups and downs along the journey. There will be seasons of joy and those of sorrow. Seasons of excitement and those of frustration. Seasons of growth and times when setbacks will occur. However, if you are committed to your partner and want the best for them, you’ll get through all the peaks and valleys along the way.
Relational Intelligence is an important skill set for every man to develop. If you want to attract the woman of your dreams to build a life with, you must be authentic and intentional in your relationships. You can win her heart if you show her the love, care, and support she deserves. I’ve seen this happen in my own life as I’ve grown over the years. You can do the same. So, take the time to learn the five essential skills of Relational Intelligence. Put them into practice when dating. You’ll see transformation take place in both your lives and in the dynamic of your relationship.
Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D., is the Visionary Founder & Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership advisory services and organizational development. He is the author of the book Relational Intelligence: The Five Essential Skills You Need to Build Life-Changing Relationships. It is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and everywhere books are sold. Follow Dr. Bandelli on Instagram at @adambandelli to learn more. You can also visit the firm’s website at www.bandelliandassociates.com for information on other leadership topics and to learn about their consulting services.