The Fifth Principle of Relationships

The Fifth Principle of Relationships is:

Relate to others on an emotional level.

Have you ever wondered why some people get on with everybody? It’s usually because they understand that relationships are formed at an emotional level. Sometimes it’s instinctive – but not always.

If you have empathy, it’s easier to build friendships and quickly gain loyalty and trust. You know how to put people at ease and make the relationship flow more easily.

The fact is (and this is often overlooked by poor communicators):

People are more interested in themselves than in you.

They like to talk about themselves. We all want to feel good, be understood, valued and appreciate and listened to. We gravitate towards people who make us feel good. This is just the way it is.

Whenever you have a choice of being right or being kind, choose kind.

Ignore others’ factual errors (so long as they trying to deceive or manipulate). Don’t take the occasional white lie too literally – what’s wrong with telling a few white lies if it makes another person feel better? This doesn’t necessarily mean compromising your integrity or staying quiet when something important needs to be said, but it does mean knowing when to take a stand and when to let things go.

To illustrate just how important is ’emotional intelligence’ in relationships, consider the work of Dr Carl R. Rogers, the founder of ‘Person Centred’ Counselling. He devoted a lifetime to studying how one person could help another to overcome emotional problems.

Rogers demonstrated that simply talking things through with a sympathetic person who is sensitive to your emotional needs can bring about beneficial changes providing they displayed three qualities:

  • Empathy
  • Genuineness
  • Acceptance/positive regard


Empathy is seeing the world as if through another’s eyes; walking a mile in their moccasins, as the old Native American saying goes. This involves being sensitive to their feelings, being aware of their needs and desires, acknowledging their right to hold a point of view even if you consider it inappropriate, and – most importantly – communicating this in your words and actions.

The best way to show empathy is to listen with full attention, which requires patience, sensitivity and trust. It cannot exist if either party feels threatened or suspicious.


Good relationships can only be formed if all parties are genuine with each other. This means being yourself, being open and above all, being real.

Acceptance/positive regard

Everyone needs to feel accepted, acknowledged, appreciated and respected. Showing positive regard for another person means acknowledging their feelings and their right to have them – regardless of whether you agree.

To accept another doesn’t mean having to like what they say. You are still free to express your opinion if you wish.

Our words and actions influence our emotions and those of others. If you relax, smile, express yourself well and be cheerful no matter how you’re feeling, you contribute to others’ happiness and well-being.

Asperger’s Syndrome

People with Asperger’s Syndrome (Aspies) find it hard to interpret body language and often don’t pick up  emotional signals from others. This makes social interaction is very difficult. They take others’ comments literally and all too often make innocuous comments which are perceived as rude.

Aspies can usually recognise the extremes of emotion – laughing and crying, for instance – but not everything in between. They cannot, for example, distinguish a well meaning smile with a malicious or manipulative one (most of us handle this subconsciously). They often wonder if they’re on the wrong planet! They want to make friends, but don’t have the skills to do so naturally.

Asperger’s syndrome offers a good example of what happens when an individual is unable to relate to others on an emotional level and confirms the importance of the Fifth Principle – relate to others on an emotional level.

©David Lawrence Preston, 4.8.2016

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