Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

The history of interactions

A relationship is the history of interactions between two or more people. Relationships are based on reciprocity—mutual exchange. Although each relationship has many features that define it, one pervasive characteristic is the level of symmetry of the exchanges. A relationship is either symmetrical and peer-based, or it is asymmetrical and power-based. In a peer based relationship each person regards the others as their equal. In a power based relationship, one person is in the “one-up” position, the position of power, and the other is in the “one-down” submissive position. This ranking may be well know and accepted, it may be disputed by the people in the relationship, the actual ranking may be inverted from the apparent or expected ranking, or it may be unknown to the people in the relationship.

Relationship Status

A relationship exists whenever two people meet or communicate. This relationship can have a wide variety of characteristics, which we call the “relationship status”.

The tone of communication contributes to the relationship status, and of course the relationship status contributes to the tone of communication. Various possible dimensions of the relationship, and extremes establishing each pole, are listed in the following table:

Dimension  Pole (Favorable)


 Pole (Difficult)
Expectations None

Outlook Hopeful, Optimistic Doubtful, pessimistic
History (Time past) First Meeting

Long History together, many shared experiences
Longevity (Time future) A long future together.

One time only
Motivation Voluntary (Autonomy)

Fear (Coercion)
Trust High Trust

Goals Shared, compatible

Cohesion Strong - we want this to work

Weak - there is nothing here for us
Symmetry, power structure Symmetrical - we are peers

Asymmetrical - power is apparent.
Common Values Many core values are shared Many value differences
Agreeableness Friendly, helpful

Unfriendly, disagreeable, antagonistic
Cooperation Cooperative Uncooperative, rebellious, resentful
Flexibility Flexible, pliable, adaptable

stubborn, rigid, constrained
Arousal Level Calm

Deliberation and decision style Rational

Evidence Style Factual, objective evidence

Speculative, faith based
Allocation Strategy win-win

Resources Available Abundance

Time available together Abundant, leisurely, plenty of time

Scarce, hurried, our time for this meeting is short.
Stakes, value at risk Low

Complexity of issues addressed. Simple

Information access Open, sharing

Closed, secretive
Authenticity Genuine, sincere, authentic Disingenuous, insincere, pretentious, deceitful, avoidance.
Literacy, education, intelligence. High, similar, and balanced Low or unbalanced
Integrity, conscientiousness Honest, honorable, straight forward. Exploitative, dishonest, manipulative, deceitful, tricky
Dependencies (power related) Each is Self-reliant “A” depends heavily on “B”
Knowledge Base We share relevant domain knowledge “A”  is the expert, “B” is the student
Organization Style Orderly, disciplined, managed Chaotic, unpredictable, turbulent
Chemistry Harmonious Discordant
Closeness Intimate Distant

Relationship Modes

Combinations of the various relationship states described above can occur in many recognizable patterns by stimulating limbic attractors. Popular names for these relationship modes include: frosty, “in the dog house”, estranged, close, antagonistic, warm, intimate, tumultuous, parent / child, teacher / student, adult, peer, healthy, strained, manipulative, platonic, détente,  poisoned, volatile, strained, abusive, and oppressive. Each of these terms informally refers to a constellation of particular relationship states.

Mutual Relationships:

Relationships can be primarily mutual, where the people are connected, work as peers, and benefit each other. In mutual relationships there is openness to influence, emotional availability, and a constantly changing pattern of responding to and affecting the other’s state. Reciprocity is observed. Alternatively the relationship can be power-based where it serves to preserve a hierarchy, and reinforce the dominant and submissive stature of the members. 

Lasting Romantic Relationships

Dr. Neil Clark Warren, clinical Psychologist and founder of eHarmony.com, believes compatibility along the following 29 dimensionsExternal Link are important for establishing and sustaining a romantic relationship:

Character & Constitution:

  • Good Character
  • Dominance vs. Submissiveness,
  • Curiosity,
  • Industry,
  • Vitality & Security,
  • Intellect,
  • Appearance,
  • Sexual Passion,
  • Artistic Passion,
  • Adaptability


  • Obstreperousness (Boisterousness),
  • Sense of Humor,
  • Sociability,
  • Energy,
  • Ambition

Emotional Makeup & Skills:

  • Emotional Health,
  • Anger Management,
  • Quality of Self Conception,
  • Mood Management,
  • Communication,
  • Conflict Resolution,
  • Kindness,
  • Autonomy vs. Closeness

Family & Values:

  • Feelings about children,
  • Family background,
  • Education,
  • Spirituality,
  • Traditionalism,
  • Values Orientation


  • “We only fully trust a relation if it has survived occasional conflict” ~ Frans De Waal
  • “At the heart of the difficulty in saying No is the tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship” ~ William Ury.


Games People Play, by M.D. Eric Berne

How to Use Power Phrases to Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, & Get What You Want by Meryl Runion

The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes, by William Ury

Our Inner Ape, by Frans De Waal

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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