by test

If I had to distill everything I’ve learnt and taught over the years into one principle, it would be this: The key to restoring passion, pride and productivity to the workplace is emotional engagement. It’s not about ignoring hard objectives and the need for good performance, but becoming emotionally engaged with your staff paves the way for a stronger bond with them and motivate them to make good performance possible.

And if there’s one thing that opens the way for everything else, it’s your being committed to the relationship between you and your superiors, subordinates and peers. Emotional Engaged Relationship is THE mandate to get things done.

In this series, I’ll break emotional engagement up into six ‘mandates’, factors that form a critical part of any business and family relationship.

  1. The Communication Mandate
  2. The Neurobiology Mandate
  3. The Family Therapy Mandate
  4. The Leadership Mandate
  5. The Organizational Mandate
  6. The Cultural Mandate

The Communication Mandate

Experts tell us that communication is composed of two parts: content (what is said) and cues (non-verbal signals such as tone of voice and body language).

Interpersonal communication scholars have found that when verbal and non-verbal communication cues clash, adults will pick up the non-verbal cues first.

Suppose I told my wife I love her. But if I delivered it gruffly and without looking at her, she would perceive it as insincere and unloving. In any mismatch between what you say and how you say it, the recipient always gets the cue from how you spoke.

Note that this also depends on the quality of your relationship. If two colleagues, Michael and Peter, aren’t on talking terms, what would it be like if Peter suddenly complimented Michael very nicely? It would still not work because the relationship was awry in the first place.

That’s why I believe communication has a third factor—relationship. A lot also depends on who is speaking to you!

Communication can be expressed as an ‘equation’:

Tables for PPP-01

Relationship is paramount in most interactions. When we have emotionally engaged relationships with others, we can navigate through the toughest of conflicts. But if a relationship is fragile, even our good intentions and beautifully constructed words of praise will be misconstrued.

There are two ‘pillars’ of a strong relationship—affinity and respect.

Affinity and Respect

While the two may sound similar, there are not the same thing. Affinity is the degree to which we like each other; respect is the degree to which we attribute worth to one another. We can like someone we do not respect—for instance, we may like colleagues who are outgoing and fun-loving, but if they are dishonest or unfaithful to their spouses, we may not respect them for these immoral values.

We can also respect someone we do not like, such as our bosses—they might deserve respect for their competence, but we will probably not like them if they are unfriendly and unapproachable.

In much of my own consulting with different organizations and family groups, I have come to discover the different relational factors that strengthen affinity and respect. These are building blocks in nurturing relationships.

Here’s what I’ve found out from my experience:

Affinity is strengthened by these different factors:

Tables for PPP-02

Respect is heightened by these different factors:

Tables for PPP-03

Are some factors more important than others? My research suggests that the top five for each pillar are (in no particular order) are:


  • Understanding and consideration
  • Care and compassion
  • Helpfulness and kindness
  • Willingness to listen; and
  • Approachability


  • Competence
  • Responsibility
  • Trustworthiness
  • Willingness to admit mistakes; and
  • Humility

In Summary

  • The ‘relationship’ is more important than the ‘what’ and the ‘cue’. Hence, good communications depends on a trusting relationship before anything else. As a parent or supervisor, if you are both liked and respected, you will earn more trust and communicate more effectively than if you have only one or neither of these factors.
  • Both affinity and respect are important. Great leaders, managers, supervisors, parents and spouses are both well-liked and well-respected.
  • The more building blocks of affinity and respect there are, the stronger the relationship.

Communication depends on affinity and respect being there in the first place—before it depends on how the parties speak or act. I’ll share more in future parts of this series, but first commit to building those factors in yourself and those you manage.

In summary, the Relationship Mandate affirms that Emotional Engagement is the key to success.

John Ng

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *