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Why’d You Do THAT?! Understanding Interpersonal Needs & Motivations

Why’d You Do THAT?! Understanding Interpersonal Needs & Motivations

Understanding personality type helps us see how our minds are wired—how we like to get energized, take in information, make decisions, and orient ourselves to the outer world. Understanding interpersonal needs gives us insight into another aspect of our personality—what motivates our behavior in regard to how much interaction we want with others.


For example, we know that people who prefer Extraversion are energized by the outer world of people and things, but what if they have low interpersonal needs? How they express their Extraversion will “show up” differently compared to Extraverts who have high interpersonal needs. Interpersonal needs add another unique dimension to who we are and why we do the things we do.


Based on the research of Will Schutz, PhD, the FIRO-B® instrument was created to assess interpersonal needs. The theory is that beyond our physiological needs—for food and safety, for example—we each have interpersonal needs—for Inclusion, Control, and Affection—that strongly motivate us. Unlike personality type preferences, which, according to Jung, are hardwired at birth, interpersonal needs are developed throughout our lifetime, based on our experiences, culture, values, and so on. As Schutz explains, everyone has the desire to express Inclusion, Control, and Affection, as well as to receive these from others.  These interpersonal needs are ranked low, medium, or high depending on the strength of the desire to get them met.


Knowing about interpersonal needs gives us a better sense of why we seek out or avoid certain situations, as well as why we seek to be “satisfied” or to have those needs met.


Inclusion, sometimes called Involvement, is about the need to belong. The desire to be recognized, to be a part of the group, is Wanted Inclusion. It could be a work group, a book club, a family circle, a sports team (or a group that watches a particular sport), a volunteer group, or even an organization. The other side of this interpersonal need is Expressed Inclusion—the drive to include others, to decide who to include.. For some, Inclusion is not a strong motivating factor, while for others it is very important.


Control, sometimes called Influence, is another interpersonal need that may motivate an individual’s behavior. How important is it to you to be in charge or to not be “managed” in any way? The need to lead, influence, provide structure, make the decisions is Expressed Control. Wanted Control is about how much you want others to lead, provide structure, set the goals, etc. Is your motivation to have this interpersonal need met low, medium, or high in either dimension? Think about how often you are “driven” to take charge. If you find yourself constantly wanting to be in charge, is it because you feel others are incompetent or because you want to drive the direction? Do you feel that others in a leadership role are there to provide you with structure and direction, or that they should trust you to fulfill your role the way you want to? For some, it may be difficult to delegate effectively, or they may overvalue competence (not valuing a learning experience, but instead seeing a mistake as a disaster). For others, the strong need for independence and freedom from responsibility may limit their effectiveness in relationships.


Affection, sometimes called Connection, is about one-to-one relationships and the emotional ties and warm connections between people. Wanted Affection has to do with how much warmth and closeness you want in relationships. Think about how often you disclose your feelings to individuals and how willing you are to listen to theirs. How important is it for you to be liked by others? How many individuals are you close to, and how would you define close? Do you have a few deeper relationships or do you consider everyone you meet (get acquainted with) a friend? Expressed Affection is about how willing you are to develop a close and warm connection with another person. How often do you act in ways that encourage closeness to another? Because of differences in this interpersonal need, some people may be perceived as unapproachable, while others may be disappointed in a relationship because the other person doesn’t accept the depth and intensity that they want and need. If we are seeking to have our interpersonal needs met and our current circumstances (work or home, for example) don’t meet them, we will actively seek to get these needs met in other ways.


This post is part of a series on Relationships, Connections and Conflict. If you’d like to start from the beginning of the series, read the first post here.

And/or continue from where you are now and read the second part to this blog post: What Do You WANT from Me? How Understanding Motivation Can Lead to More Effective Behavior!

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