Relationship intelligence: understanding ourselves and others

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Brian Moore introduces a new tool that will help you to increase those elements of your personal and working life that impact positively on other people.

Organisations are not successful; people who work in organisations are successful. People drive an organisation forward, slow it down or even put it in reverse. Conflict, stress, misunderstanding, poor communication, demotivation, resistance, low morale, poor productivity all have their origins in people and relationships.

Why relationship intelligence is important

Research shows that managers loses 25 percent of their day dealing with unwarranted conflict.   Understanding people and relationships is no longer a soft option. It directly impacts on productivity, morale and the bottom line. The purpose of relationship intelligence is not to change anyone. Instead, it shows you how, by using different approaches with different people, you will achieve your goals more effectively and more consistently. In fact, it ultimately leads to a better quality of life.

Relationship Intelligence™ (RI) will teach you how to reduce the negative elements of your life. You will also learn to increase the positive elements. Through RI you will learn:

  • the difference between motivation and behaviour
  • how to synergise the differences in your styles
  • the impact of your style on others
  • what skills we can learn from others
  • how to reduce the incidence of conflict
  • what can cause conflict for you and for others
  • how to resolve these situations effectively


How our values drive behaviour

Many people make judgments about others based on the observable behaviour. They look at what they do without considering their motivation or intention. We need to understand why they do what they do. If you raise your self-awareness so that you always ask yourself  why someone behaves in a particular way. What’s driving the behaviour? What’s their intention? Try to do this instead of jumping to conclusions.

Our values provide our motivation for what we do in our lives. They drive our behaviour and our evaluation of whether we’re on track or not. Everyone has a set of core values. Our values are also context dependent.

For example, our values may differ between our personal and professional life, in our sporting pursuits, as well as our relationships. Our values may change over time, especially after a major event in our lives.

We are all different. There are the obvious differences – age, appearance, sex – but there are more fundamental differences. To understand others, as well as manage ourselves and our relationships with them, it is essential that we understand the root of what makes people so different.

The Motivational Values System™

Imagine that behaviour is like a buoy on the ocean. It changes depending on the circumstances. Our attitudes, priorities, values and beliefs can change depending on life experiences. However, our Motivational Values System™ (MVS™) stays firmly anchored to the bottom of the ocean.

Our individual MVS™ is consistent through life and underpins all our behaviour. If we  understand our values, we realise there is a driving force within us all.We need to be valued, recognised and appreciated. It is the way we try to realise these personal goals that tends to get in the way of maintaining effective relationships.

A person’s Motivational Value System™ evolves through both genetic influence and early life experience and does not change over time. Our MVS™ influences what we choose to do and be and what not to do and what not to be. Therefore, it influences our behaviour choice in all life situations.

The MVS™ is a fundamental concept for the achievement of both our self-management skills and relationship management skills. We begin to know another person by noting the frequency of the valued behaviours they repeat. To understand another person, we should take  their MVS™ into account. If we understand why a person thinks, acts and chooses priorities, we can interact more effectively with them. That includes ourselves!

The Motivational Value System™ filters the behaviour of others. Our perception and judgement of this behaviour that affects the way we behave. It also impacts our energy levels and commitment to the person or goal in the future.

Strength Deployment Inventory®

How can we discover and better understand a person’s MVS™? By using the Strength Deployment Inventory® (SDI). This a self-awareness tool which is a proven to improve team effectiveness and reduce the costs of conflict. It is the flagship assessment of a suite of tools based on Relationship Awareness™. Relationship Awareness™ is a learning model for effectively and accurately understanding the motive behind behaviour. When people recognise their own and others motivations, they can communicate more effectively and handle conflict more productively.

There are many self-awareness tools. What is different about the Strength Deployment Inventory® SDI® is that it looks at what motivates a person and how his/her priorities change in the face of opposition or conflict. The SDI® is also practical, versatile and easy to understand. It creates a language that cuts through cultural and hierarchical barriers.

How does the SDI® work?

The SDI® is a self-development tool. It gives us an indication of what makes us tick and why we do the things we do. It looks at our motivations when things are going well, poorly or when we face conflict. The underlying assumption of the SDI® is that all human beings need to interact with others in a way that makes us feel good about ourselves and at the same time makes the other person feel good about him or herself.

The SDI® encourages us to think about behaviour not as an end in itself. Instead, think of it as a vehicle driving us towards a greater feeling of self-worth. By better understanding these motivations we are more able to build effective relationships both personally and professionally.

The psychologist Elias H Porter based SDI® and Relationship Awareness Theory™ on more than30 years of research. Many personality theories are about people, this theory is for people. Porter wanted to provide an effective means for understanding ourselves and others so that interpersonal relationships could be mutually productive and gratifying. The theory helps people organise their concepts of themselves and others around three basic motivations. We want to:

  • Maintain relationships and the welfare of others
  • Direct others to achieve desired results
  • Be self-sufficient


Porter’s work was heavily influenced by psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Erich Fromm, and psychologist Carl Rogers.

How can this understanding help us manage and avoid conflict?

When we observe a person’s behaviour, we measure their motivations. We do this through our own perceptions of what we think their intentions or meanings are, whether or not this is their true motivator. Our perceptions are coloured by our own Motivational Value System™.

These perceptions cause inner conflict and/or can lead to interpersonal conflict.

Conflict is more likely to be triggered with a person with an MVS™ tendency towards maintaining relationships when they perceive that there is insufficient respect being shown for things such as openness, trust, harmony and the respecting of individuals.

When a person has an MVS™ is predominantly motivated towards results, conflict is likely where there is insufficient respect for task-focus, competitiveness, innovation and fast decision-making.

Conflict is likely to be triggered with a person with an MVS™ tendency towards autonomy or self-sufficiency where they perceive that there is insufficient respect for personal excellence, self-reliance, objectivity and thoughtful decision-making.

Case Study: Using the SDI® to reduce conflict, improve morale and increase productivity

A shared service centre in Ireland was going through a period of rapid change due to an economic downturn in their sector. It was necessary to reduce staff numbers.

Because of this, employees had low morale. There was also poor productivity and communication battles between managers and their teams. Following a consultation with the management team, the objectives for performance improvement were established. They agreed to run an SDI® workshop so that more effective communication and enhanced self-awareness could help their present challenges.

After the workshop, the senior management team was able to understand what drove their behaviour. They saw what they could do enhance the relationships with their team  especially when communicating sensitive announcements.

The workshop led to a significant drop in the communication battles and personality issues between the managers and their team members. This gave them more time to focus on what needed to be done within the business. As a result, productivity increased and morale improved.

Brian Moore is the founder, keynote speaker and a trainer with Peak Potential.

The SDI® and Strength Deployment Inventory®, Motivational Value System™, MVS™, Relationship Intelligence™, Relationship Awareness Theory™ are protected by worldwide copyright and are registered to Personal Strengths Publishing Inc.

Anne Sexton

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