Relationship Grid Survey
written by Susan Connor, Research Associate
Within personality psychology there is a stream of theory and research that focuses on describing or assessing interpersonal behavior on two dimensions, often referred to as agency and communion. Timothy Leary (1957) was the first to place the dimensions on a circumplex, with the horizontal axis representing communion (also often called affiliation) and the vertical axis representing agency (sometimes referred to as power). Variations on the circumplex have appeared over the years, with the poles of agency generally called dominance/submission and the poles of communion referred to as hostility/friendliness, coldness/warmth, or hate/love.
Various questionnaires for assessing people on the circumplex have been devised, most with good internal and test-retest validity as well as external validity with self-report personality measures and clinical outcomes (Locke, 2006). All of the measures have been criticized as well for various shortcomings, including language that may be outmoded, lack of consistency for some quadrants (specifically the top right and bottom left) and overlap between extreme ends of the poles.
Independently of the extensive theorizing and research that has developed over the past five decades, Terry Real (2007) created something similar to the circumplex, which he calls the Relationship Grid. In his clinical experience Real found that people tend to fall into one of four quadrants in their behavior during relationship difficulties. The labels (and extreme behaviors) for these quadrants can be seen in the diagram below. Developed from clinical experience, rather than theoretical or philosophical underpinnings, the Relationship Grid may prove to have more clinical utility than the circumplex, particularly for couples therapists.