Measuring Interpersonal Competence and FIRO-B

Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) is a theory of interpersonal relations, introduced by William Schutz in 1958. This theory mainly explains the interpersonal interactions of a local group of people. The theory is based on the belief that when people get together in a group, there are three main interpersonal needs they are looking to obtain affection/openness, control and inclusion. Schutz developed a measuring instrument that contains six scales of nine-item questions, and this became version B (for “Behavior”). This technique was created to measure how group members feel when it comes to inclusion, control, and affection/openness or to be able to get feedback from people in a group.

These categories measure how much interaction a person wants in the areas of socializing, leadership and responsibilities, and more intimate personal relations. FIRO-B was created, based on this theory, as a measurement instrument with scales that assess the behavioral aspects of the three dimensions. Scores are graded from 0–9 in scales of expressed and wanted behavior, which define how much a person expresses to others, and how much he wants from others. Schutz believed that FIRO scores in themselves were not terminal, and can and do change, and did not encourage typology; however, the four temperaments were eventually mapped to the scales of the scoring system, which led to the creation of a theory of five temperaments.

The FIRO-B tool examines three fundamental dimensions of interpersonal needs:


Recognition, Belonging, Participation, contact with others, and how you relate to groups


Influence, Leadership, Responsibility, And Decision Making you relate to groups


Closeness, Warmth, Sensitivity, Openness, And Relating to Others

Schutz himself discussed the impact of extreme behavior in the areas of inclusion, control, and openness as indicated by scores on the FIRO-B (and the later Element-B). For each area of interpersonal need the following three types of behavior would be evident:

(1) Deficient

(2) Excessive

(3) Ideal

Relationship at Workplace

Relationships are important. They are an inevitable part of life, and yet can be a potential source of tension in organisations. In the workplace, performance, delivery and efficiency are required, often from a team of mere acquaintances. To achieve high performance, teams need to operate on trust and a solid foundation of good working relationships. The FIRO instrument targets this need, identifying the drivers underlying the behaviours that shape relationships for individuals and teams within an organisation.


  • Adds a new, complementary perspective to any individual or group development experience
  • Increases an individual’s effectiveness in relationships
  • Presents a proven framework to propel teams and organisations to high performance

Uses of The FIRO-B Assessment

Leadership Development

Help leaders and executives unlock improvement in performance by better meeting the needs of peers and subordinate.

Team Development

Can be integrated in team-building initiatives and communication workshops by increasing awareness that different people have different needs.

Individual Development

Provides critical insights into how an individual’s need for inclusion, control and affection can shape their interaction with others.

Deficient was defined as indicating that an individual was not trying to directly satisfy the need. Excessive was defined as indicating that an individual was constantly trying to satisfy the need. Ideal referred to satisfaction of the need. From this, he identified the following types:

Schutz composed a “Matrix of Relevant Interpersonal Data”, which he called “The Elephant”. Each area consisted of a smaller matrix of “act” and “feel” by “Self to Other” (Action), “Other to Self” (Reaction), and “Self to Self”.

In 1977, a clinical psychologist who worked with FIRO-B, Dr. Leo Ryan, produced maps of the scores for each area, called “locator charts”, and assigned names for all of the score ranges in his Clinical Interpretation of the FIRO-B:


Inclusion Control Affection Temperament by APS (all 3 areas)
Low e and w The Loner The Rebel The Pessimist Melancholy
moderate e, low w “Now You See Him, Now You Don’t” Tendencies Self-Confident “Image of Intimacy” Tendency Phlegmatic Melancholy / Phlegmatic Choleric
High e, low w Now You See Him, Now You Don’t Mission Impossible Image/(Mask) of Intimacy Choleric
high e, moderate w The Conversationalist “Mission Impossible” with Narcissistic Tendencies Living Up To Expectations Sanguine Phlegmatic / Choleric Phlegmatic
high e and w People Gatherer (formerly, “Where are the People?”) Dependent-Independent conflict The Optimist Sanguine
moderate e, high w Hidden Inhibitions Let’s Take a Break Cautious Lover In Disguise Phlegmatic Supine / Phlegmatic Sanguine
low e, high w Inhibited Individual Openly Dependent Person; (w=6: Loyal Lieutenant) Cautious Lover Supine
low e, moderate w Cautious Expectation The Checker Careful Moderation Supine Phlegmatic / Melancholy Phlegmatic
moderate e and w Social Flexibility The Matcher Warm Individual/The Golden Mean Phlegmatic


Compatibility Theory

Another part of the theory is “compatibility theory”, which features the roles of originator, reciprocal, and interchange.

Originator compatibility, involves possible clashes between expressed and wanted behaviors. The example given, is two people with high eC and low wC (aka “Mission Impossible” or “Autocrat Rebellious”). They: “will both want to originate the behaviors associated with the Control needs, and neither will want to receive those behaviors. Both persons will want to set the agenda, take responsibility, and direct and structure the actions of others; neither will feel comfortable taking direction. The result could be competition or even conflict.”

Reciprocal compatibility is (from another example given from Control), where high eC with low wC interacts with the opposite: low eC with high wC (“Openly Dependent”, “Loyal Lieutenant”, or “Abdicrat Submissive”).

“there is a high degree of reciprocal compatibility because, one will take charge; the other will be happy to let him or her assume the responsibility.”


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Interchange compatibility measures how much individuals share the same need strengths. The example is two people with both high eA and wA (“Optimist” or “Overpersonal Personal-compliant”). They “will be compatible because both will see Affection behaviors as the basis of the relationship, and they will engage each other around Affection needs.” (i.e. freely give and receive).

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