Relationship Awareness Theory: An Overview
Relationship Awareness Theory is a self-learning model for effectively and accurately understanding and inferring the motive behind the behaviour.
Relationship Awareness gives organisations and individuals the awareness and skills they need to build more effective personal and professional relationships. It helps them to sustain those relationships through understanding the underlying Motivational Value Systems™ of themselves and others under two conditions:
- When things are going well and,
- During conflict.
The theory helps people to recognise that they can choose their behaviours to accommodate their underlying motivational values, while also taking into account the motivational values of others. It is a dynamic and powerful way of looking at human relationships that aids in building communication, trust, empathy, and effective, productive relationships.
The theory (the psychometric inventories and other resources which are based on it) was developed by psychologist, clinical therapist, educator, and author Elias H. Porter, Ph.D.
In Relationship Awareness Theory, Dr. Porter integrates quite diverse streams of psychological thought. In particular, Dr. Porter acknowledges the purposive behaviourism of Edward Tolman, the empiricism of Kurt Lewin, the client-centred therapy of Carl Rogers and the Neo-Freudian personality theories of Erich Fromm and Karen Horney. The theory itself is founded on four simple, yet profound, premises:
- Behaviour is driven by motivation to achieve or maintain self-worth;
- Motivation changes in conflict;
- Strengths, when overdone or misapplied, can be perceived as weaknesses and;
- Personal filters influence perceptions of self and of others.
Relationship Awareness Theory identifies seven general themes or clusters of motives known as Motivational Value Systems (MVS). Each MVS can be traced through the work of Freud and Fromm. Relationship Awareness describes them in terms of “positive strivings for self-worth by adults in relationships”.
Altruistic–Nurturing (Blue): Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others.
Assertive–Directing (Red): Concern for task accomplishment and concern for organisation of people, time, money and any other resources to achieve desired results.
Analytic–Autonomising (Green): Concern for assurance that things have been properly thought out and concern for meaningful order being established and maintained.
Flexible–Cohering (Hub): Concern for flexibility, concern for the welfare of the group, concern for the members of the group and for belonging in the group.
Assertive–Nurturing (Red-Blue Blend): Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others through task accomplishment and leadership.
Judicious–Competing (Red-Green Blend): Concern for intelligent assertiveness, justice, leadership, order, and fairness in competition.
Cautious–Supporting (Blue-Green Blend): Concern for affirming and developing self-sufficiency in self and others, concern for thoughtful helpfulness with regard for justice.
Dr. Porter was the first known psychometrician to use colours (Red, Green and Blue) as shortcuts to communicate the results of a personality test.
Porter’s work in conflict is perhaps his most significant contribution to the field of psychology. Based on his observations with clients and ongoing research into the results of his own psychometrics, he stated “When we are free to pursue our gratifications, we are more or less uniformly predictable, but in the face of continuing conflict or opposition we undergo changes in motivations that link into different bodies of beliefs and concepts that are, in turn, expressed in yet different behaviour traits.”
Porter’s description of the Conflict Sequence suggests that people experience changes in their motivation (and express these motivational changes via the behavioural choices they make) predictably and sequentially in up to three stages.
Strength Deployment Inventory (SDI) identifies 13 possible Conflict Sequences to assist people to gain an understanding of their Conflict Sequence and the sequence of others. This is a valuable learning tool to assist with the effective management of intra- and interpersonal conflict.
Relationship Awareness Theory claims that one of the primary causes of conflict is the perceived overdoing of strengths in relationships; because people experience these overdone strengths as potential threats to self-worth. He suggested that personal filters influence perception; that people tend to use their own motivational values as a means to judge and make assumptions about the intent of the behaviour of others. The more difference there is between two people’s motivational values (filters), the more likely they would each be to perceive the behaviours of the others as overdone or misapplied.
Relationship Awareness Theory is a Motivational Theory which addresses the motives that are behind everyday behaviour when we are relating to others. Like Freudian theory, it assumes that there is meaning behind all behaviour. By shifting our focus from only looking at behaviour to looking at the motive behind the behaviour, we can gain a clearer understanding of ourselves and others.
In Relationship Awareness Theory we look at behaviour in the following way:
Behaviours are the vehicles used to translate a want or need into an outcome that gets us a desired result (and in the process of getting this result it confirms our sense of self-worth). These behaviours can also be used to protect us from the things that we do not want, or that we do not perceive to have value to us.
Motives come from our wish to feel a strong sense of self-worth or self-value.
Our individual Motivational Value System is consistent throughout our life and underpins all of our behaviours (which may be inconsistent and can be influenced by perceived rewards, experience, background, role requirements, etc.).
Traditional writing about motivation describes motives as something that can be inspired in others. In Relationship Awareness Theory, motives are thought of as already present in every person and readily available to be tapped.