Understanding Interpersonal Relationships

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Understanding Interpersonal Relationships

By David M. Williams, DMWAustin consulting

Managers in general tend to under appreciate the productivity drag associated with poor interpersonal interactions in the workplace. We write it off as, ‘Oh, that’s just Jane’ or build work arounds instead of trying to learn what causes people to have effective interpersonal relationships. Appreciating how we impact others and how they impact us, helps us lead more effectively.

Psychologist William Shultz introduced a theory of interpersonal relations he called Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO). He believed people have unique interpersonal needs that motivate and affect our behavior in personal and professional relationships. This manifests in how a person typically behaves towards others and how they would like others to behave towards them.

FIRO is based on three dimensions that can explain most human interactions: Inclusion, Control, and Affection. Each of us has varying degrees of how much we need or express them.

  • Inclusion – How you participate in forming relations with others. When a person wants inclusion, they want to be noticed and have others invite them to belong. When it’s expressed, they try to include others in what they do.
  • Control – How you prefer to be involved in decision-making, control, and influence. Those that have a want for control, prefer well-defined situations where instructions and expectations are clear. When it’s expressed, individuals prefer to organize and direct others and exert control and influence over things.
  • Affection – How you build rapport and openness between colleagues. When wanted, people look for other to share feelings and encourage their efforts. They hope for people to be warm to them. When expressed, the individual take it upon himself or herself to get close to others. They are okay sharing their feelings and like to support people.

FIRO has many applications in organizations. It is commonly used with individuals and groups to assist with career development and coaching, improving team performance, and in leadership development. A simple questionnaire is used to identify individual behavior and needs. Do you know what you want from other or what they may want from you?

DMWAustin (www.DMWAustin .com) is qualified to administer and interpret the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation Behavior (FIRO-B) instrument.

Re-purposed from an article originally published in Management Focus.