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Relationship Management

In the Moment and Strategic

We’re back with another message and how to know and grow your emotional intelligence! This month we’re taking a closer look at relationship management, and how you can use what you know about yourself and what you know about the people around you to manage your interactions to find wins (or palatable compromises) for all. 

Relationship management, or stakeholder management – whatever you want to call it—is not about stakeholder manipulation. It’s about using your knowledge and influence to find and create objectively good outcomes and set everyone up for success. It’s important to remember to use your relationship management for the good of all, not just what’s good for you! 

Relationship Management In the Moment

We’ve all been in uncomfortable situations before. They’re not fun, but you CAN get through them and even de-escalate them by managing yourself and trying these de-escalation tips if times get tough, whether it’s a one-on-one conversation, or a meeting with multiple mouths and opinions. You’ll definitely want to lean on your relationship awareness—what do you know about the other voices and minds in the room, and hour can you use that knowledge to help find a resolution or next step forward? Remember, while it’s always tempting to respond in kind to others, the time and energy required to respond kindly are a worthwhile investment.


1. Make it safe.

It’s hard to give our best contributions to a conversation or situation if we feel threatened or attacked. Take another look at our last EI message on Social Awareness to see what might be causing those kinds of feelings in the moment. If you can tell emotions are heightened and there’s tension, try to make it safe for everyone involved. Set boundaries at the beginning of the conversation – maybe even a time limit—and give that person an out if needed. Ask permission before you start the conversation so the intention is clear, and give people time to prepare if possible. For example, “Do you have time to talk about xyz?” This allows the other person to consent to the conversation, and avoids making someone feel caught off guard.


2. Listen

Use your ears. Don’t just listen to respond with your rebuttal or opinion. Understanding where the other person is coming from will help you address and assuage concerns, especially if there’s been a miscommunication. People often become defensive or irrational if they don’t feel heard or understood. Try paraphrasing or repeating their words back to them to help them understand that you hear them and you’re trying to help resolve the situation, or take their thoughts into consideration.


3. Know when to tap out.

Sometimes we need to take a step back and take a breather from a difficult conversation—both for the other person and for ourselves. If you feel a conversation is no longer a conversation or no longer productive, suggest taking a break so you can regroup or collect your thoughts. It’s not running away as long as you come back to it – it’s about honoring yourself and your boundaries, as well as the other person’s. Suggest a time to come back to the conversation so it’s clear that you’re not avoiding the issue.

If you’re not sure how to initiate a break, try these:

“It doesn’t feel like we’re making much progress. I think it would be best if we gathered our thoughts independently and regrouped another time. How does ___________ work?”

“This is an important issue to me, and I need to regulate my words and emotions. It would be helpful for us to take a break and come back to this discussion in ______________ minutes/hours.”

If the difficult moment is during a meeting, try:

“I don’t think we can solve this issue during this meeting. Let’s schedule another conversation so we can give that topic the space and attention it requires.”


Strategic Relationship Management

Beyond your in-the-moment, difficult conversations, what are ways you can get the best out of others? Take another look at last month’s EI newsletter—this time the strategic social awareness section. If you don’t know people, it’s difficult to build and maintain relationships with them, and using what you know about people—showing people that you pay attention, that they matter, and that you understand them—makes people feel valued, and we’re all more likely to give our best effort when we feel like we are seen and appreciated.


Catch people at the right time.

Find folks at their good “big think” times if you need them to do a big think. You’ll get their best effort, and it will be the best, most productive use of everyone’s time. It’s pretty simple, but easy to overlook if we’re too focused on what’s best for us or what we need—especially if what we need is for a key stakeholder to be at their best in order to problem solve or complete a task!


Adapt your communication style.

Knowing someone’s preferred communication style and using it are two different things. If you’re not sure, ask! But if you do ask, be prepared to follow through and use that format the best you can. What’s the point in knowing if you’re just going to keep using the team Slack—especially after they’ve told you they prefer email or face to face communication? We get that it’s not always possible to use everyone’s number one communication method with every message, but we can do our best to prioritize it, or at least recognize when someone’s out of their element and adjust our expectations – or communicate them clearly—when possible.


Recognize "Big Asks."

Maybe you’ve heard of the relationship piggy bank—sometimes interactions make deposits into our relationship piggy bank, and sometimes they can be withdrawals. We’re not saying all relationships or each of our interactions with someone are transactional, but there are definitely times when we’re giving and times when we’re taking. If you’re asking someone to do a high effort task, or something that’s out of their comfort zone, acknowledge that! Make it clear that you realize the depth or breadth of what you’re asking of that person, and show that you appreciate their effort. Yes, even if what you’re asking is “just part of the job.” Additionally, if you’re repeatedly making big asks to that one person, maybe that’s a sign that you need to re-examine work flows or systems to distribute the work load a little better.

There you have it—all four steps toward knowing and growing your Emotional Intelligence! Relationship Management is often the most complex piece of the puzzle because it’s not just about you – it’s about understanding other people (often the most complicated part of our day or job!), and using what you know about you and what you know about them to respond or plan accordingly to get the most out of yourself and your team.

What about you? Let us know in the comments below or on social media! 


Topics: Networking, Communication & Collaboration

Anna Lehocz

About the Author

Anna Lehocz

Anna Lehocz is a Your Clear Next Step writer and communications specialist working part time while following her passion of teaching young students.

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