By Julie Standfield
Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation – FIRO – is a great psychometric tool that allows you to explore three distinct elements in our relationships with other people.¬† The subject of this week’s blog is ‘inclusion’.¬† What does the word itself make you think of?
For me, it’s about feeling welcome, feeling like you belong, feeling like you matter to that group of people, feeling like you make a valuable contribution. It might mean different things to different people.¬† For Schutz, inclusion¬†means feeling recognised, participating, prominence, belonging.¬†¬†He¬†believed that ‘people need people’ in order to function well in their lives and ‘inclusion’ in groups was a fundamental part of our basic needs as humans.
All elements of Firo measure four different elements – what you currently get, what you want to get in future, what you currently give to others, what you want to give to others¬†in future.
When you explore the psychometric tool itself, it presents different scores in each of these four boxes, for example:
The results in this box show on the second row¬†that what this person currently gets (0) and what they want (3) is showing what’s called a ‘dissatisfaction gap’ – they are not currently having their needs fully¬†met¬†by the groups they are part of.¬†¬† The third row shows that what they currently give to others (1) and what they want from others (1) is in alignment.¬† Take a minute to consider the scores themselves – all on the low side.
Lower scores tend to indicate that an individual has a lower need for social inclusion and interaction with people, and that they are independent, self-reliant, enjoy their own company and may come across as detached and aloof.¬†¬† This might be totally true for that person and they may be quite happy with this approach, however, it might also indicate that the person has developed¬†an outer shell as a protection mechanism in order to avoid being rejected.
The term ‘rigidity’ is used within Firo language, to describe feeling the need to behave in a certain way, whether it is appropriate for the situation or not.¬† Low inclusion scores may indicate that this person has developed rigidity in their behaviours in groups, in order to avoid allowing others to hurt them, by rejecting them or refusing them access to the gang. The inner voice of that person may be saying something such as ‘if I behave as though I don’t care, and as though I don’t want to be part of the group, I won’t give them the chance to make that decision for me and I’d rather exclude myself from the group than take that chance’.
I must stress that this isn’t always the case and there are plenty of people with low inclusion scores who are perfectly happy with their choice to be very selective about who they wish to be included with! I know because I am one of them.
Going back to the individual shown in the box above, they are clearly not at peace with it, as there is a dissatisfaction score of 3.¬† This isn’t a huge score numerically, but in fact, the numbers themselves are meaningless on their own, as each individual will attach different meaning to the scores.¬† For this person, a gap of 3 might be a massive issue, causing unconscious stress, or it might be a vague desire to be more included in group activities.¬† The joy of Firo, is that coaching is the tool that allows you to explore what the scores mean for you as an individual, rather than delivering a set of results to you as a fait accompli.
The fact that this person wants to be more included, yet doesn’t show any desire to actively include others in turn, might also be an interesting discussion to have.
The Psychologist who taught me how to use this instrument (Dr. Roy Childs, Genius and all round great guy, at TeamFocus.com) said that it doesn’t matter how much you make an effort to include people within a group – if they dont feel included enough, they will always show a dissatisfaction score. If you are one of these people with a high need to include people, and you are finding that no matter how hard you try, the other person still shows signs of feeling left out, it may well be an issue with them rather than the fact that you are doing anything wrong or failing to do something.
Inclusion within teams is a¬† common hot-bed of conflict.¬† Imagine that some people will feel like they are always¬†on the periphery of the team and want to break into it, others will feel that they dont actually need to be included in so much and please leave them out of it in future.¬† Others will want to include people more and feel that they’re failing for numerous reasons, and others will want to include people less and dont know how to do this without offending people!!¬† It’s a really hard balancing act.¬† If you’re the leader of a team, bear in mind that not everyone will have the same scores as you.¬† Human nature is to treat others according to how we would want to be treated, and whilst that’s a good starting point, it doesn’t always work with inclusion, for obvious reasons.
One solution is to get your people to complete the Firo questionnaire, and use their results in a team session to discuss what the scores mean to each individual, get team agreement about how to meet each individual’s needs, and build a cunning action¬†plan to implement this.
Inclusion, at its core, is about managing feelings of significance; often it is about internal¬†deep seated self-esteem issues and at other times it’s about the external environment and behaviours within the group.¬† Exploring both elements can help people to understand their drivers better, and to be clearer about how to close their dissatisfaction gaps and have more fulfilling relationships within the groups they are part of.