Group of Boys Cooling off in a River

Why All the Relationship and Empathy Jazz?

Group of Boys Cooling off in a River
Group of Boys Cooling off in a River, by Ron Porter

Dear Son,

I bet you are wondering, at least a little, why so many of my letters are about relationships, friendship, empathy, and choosing the company that you keep.  The reason is pretty simple:  it is what will help you the most in being happy and successful as an adult.

Intelligence can take you a very long way.  If you know how to use it, then it will take you even farther (which is why I consider teaching you to be a critical thinker and a free-thinker both critical.)  And I know you will be intelligent, because your mother and I both are reasonably intelligent people.  And I am devoted to raising you in the way that ensures the healthiest brain and intellectual development that I can: by parenting peacefully.

But Emotional intelligence: the ability to read, guess motivations, empathize, and communicate well with other people is even rarer than intelligence.  And as our culture evolves it is becoming more and more valuable as well.  We are moving to a world where everyone will be an entrepreneur, a leader, and a negotiator to some degree.  And one where your reputation and ability to inspire others will be powerful capital indeed.

You are going to need to be both creative, and know how to share your creativity with others as the world becomes more and more an information society.  In fact, intelligence that is not tempered with good social skills can be a very lonely thing.

I consider myself truly blessed, in that my parents are both warm, loving people with a strong sense of integrity.  They raised me to get along with others, to stand up for myself, and to be warm and caring.  They were strict when it came to me being unpleasant and antisocial.  When I had trouble reading others, they encouraged me to learn it as a skill until it came naturally to me.

Because of the way I was raised, I have always been an good communicator and a good listener.  I make friends and earn trust easily.  It is a set of skills that I intend to pass on to you.  They have been more critical to my success as a life coach than my intelligence ever has.

Your Grammie and Grandpa are also naturally warm, sociable people with great senses of humour and a gift for setting strong boundaries, that your mother inherited.  And there is no more fearsome a negotiator that your Grammie, believe me.

You have a lot of great role models going forward, but I also intend to make sure that you treat social skills as skills that you grow, hone, and refine over time. I look forward to watching you grow into a warm and good-hearted man.



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