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Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.

Relationship IQ FAQ

Quick Access:
Questions and Answers about Relationship IQ (RIQ)

What is this concept of “Relationship IQ” that I’ve seen discussed on several websites?


You might see quizzes or tests for “Relationship IQ” on various websites, but the idea is nothing new. In the psychological literature, Relationship IQ is known as Interpersonal Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and sometimes Social Skills. In general, these labels essentially describe the same thing: RIQ is a form of emotional intelligence, the ability to understand other people.

People with a high Relationship IQ are good at establishing rapport with people and making others feel comfortable. They’re also good at perceiving reading other people’s emotions and behaviors. In other words, they’re socially aware. That is, they recognize subtle changes in a person’s mood, motivations, and behaviors (through facial expressions, voice fluctuations, etc.) and display a general concern for their well-being. They also tend to “know” how to respond appropriately to others’ needs. This social sensitivity also makes them very persuasive and influential.

How does RIQ impact romantic relationships?

High RIQ obviously has advantages in intimate relationships. When both partners are able to recognize subtle fluctuations in their partner’s mood, they are able to react appropriately, use effective communication and increase relationship satisfaction. Failing to recognize and act appropriately when one’s partner’s mood shifts can cause tension in the relationship and lead both partners to resent each other for not understanding one another. This is also true inside and outside of the bedroom. For example, men especially need to know that numerous studies show that women consider talk to be one of the most important parts of foreplay. Indeed, couples with the best communication also have the best, most contented sex lives. Talking more is one of the easiest things men can do to improve their relationships and sex lives. And talk is cheap – literally. Communicating costs nothing, yet it pays big dividends for all the reasons noted above.

Does everyone have high levels of RIQ?

According to some research, most everyone has the capacity to heighten their RIQ, but certain personality traits and other personal characteristics strongly affect a person’s RIQ.

It would be easy to assume that women are higher than men in RIQ because women due to socialization. That is, girls often are raised to be much more emotionally expressive and attentive to others’ needs than are boys. However, research also shows that men tend to display high levels of RIQ in the work setting, such as in strategic planning or team management.

Can I improve my RIQ?

Compared to a person’s level of General Intelligence, Relationship IQ is rather easy to improve if you’re motivated. Try some or all of the following techniques:

» Strive to meet at least one new person every week. This may be initially difficult, but it will be easy to meet people and expand your social circle if you come across as being very open and friendly to others. Here are some likely places:

- Become a volunteer. Surely there are a number of volunteer organizations in your area that would benefit tremendously from you and your skills. While you’re there, you’ll very likely meet people with similar interests and values.

- If you have a hobby, and there are groups of enthusiasts in your area, perhaps you could arrange a casual party where you all can talk about your experiences and enjoyment for the activity. Alternatively, if you don’t have a hobby, try to develop one. It can be a great way to meet people.

- Join a civic, community or religious organization.

- If you have a child who’s active in extracurricular activities, try getting involved yourself in some capacity. Not only will you be able to spend more time with your child, but also meet other people in the community.

- Go and participate in the chat rooms on online dating sites, as well as use email and IM.

- Take risks. Try initiating a conversation with people you don’t know. If you find that you don’t have a connection with that person it’s no big deal – you probably won’t ever see them again.

» Spend time each day “people-watching.” Simply observing how people behave can provide tremendous insight into human behavior. While people-watching “make predictions” about how certain people might behave, or where they’re going or what they’re doing. This sort of thinking will sharpen you ability to make inferences about the behavior of people in your relationships.

» Shadow a family member or friend who has great people skills. Watching firsthand how someone handles themselves and others is a great way to learn the nuances of people skills.

» Learn objectively how you come across to others. Feedback from legitimate personality and relationship tests can greatly help you learn how others perceive you. has a few validated tests that are completely free once you sign up for free membership. OKCupid and other free sites also have testing – but not necessarily all of it is legitimate psychological assessment. Several paid sites likewise offer testing, though it varies in quality. Once you have an idea of how you might be perceived, ask yourself whether you perceive others in that particular way. This process will help you identify the behaviors that you express or convey when you feel a certain way, and what you notice in other people’s behavior when they might people feeling that way. Hopefully, with some practice, you will be able to pick-up on the cues that indicate how a person is feeling.

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