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Updated: May 31

Introduction to the FIRO-B® Instrument

The FIRO-B® instrument is a powerful tool designed to shed light on how your personal needs influence your interactions with others. By understanding your FIRO-B results, you gain valuable insights into your own behavior and the behavior of those around you. This knowledge empowers you to:

  • Maximize the impact of your actions: Effective communication and understanding lead to better outcomes.

  • Increase job satisfaction and productivity: When your needs are met in the workplace, you're more engaged and fulfilled.

  • Explore alternate ways to achieve your goals: Understanding your needs allows you to find approaches that resonate with you.

To fully grasp your FIRO-B results, enabling you to:

  • Manage your behavior and its outcomes, in leadership or support roles.

  • Identify the root causes of stagnation and conflict, both personally and professionally.

  • Appreciate the unique contributions of all team members.

  • Enhance productivity through awareness of interpersonal dynamics.

  • Respond effectively to the needs and styles of others.

These interpersonal dynamics significantly influence high performance behavior in all organizations. Consider these common scenarios:

  • Why do some colleagues prefer solitude despite being part of a successful team?

  • Why do some coworkers misinterpret your actions?

  • Why do some people find teamwork rewarding, while others find it frustrating?

  • Why do you often assume specific roles, like leader or challenger?

  • Why do some people turn projects into competitions?

Reading this guide will provide valuable insights into these and many other situations you encounter in organizational settings.

The FIRO-B® Model

FIRO-B stands for Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior™. Originally developed to predict how military personnel would function in group settings, this brief instrument was created by Will Schutz and first comprehensively described in his book FIRO®: A Three-Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior (1958). The theory draws upon the work of prominent psychologists like T. W. Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Wilfred Bion.

The FIRO-B instrument has become a widely used assessment tool for understanding interpersonal behavior. It benefits individuals in various areas, including:

  • Management and leadership development

  • Team building

  • Career, family, and relationship counseling

  • Research on educational administration, work group compatibility, group dynamics, and criminal justice administration

The instrument's reliability and validity have been well-established (see G. A. Gluck in the resources listed on page 26).

Here's a crucial point to remember before we delve deeper: All instruments have limitations. The FIRO-B assessment is:

  • Not a comprehensive personality test

  • Not a judgment of "good" or "bad" behaviors or people

  • Not a measure of abilities, career interests, or achievement

It's important to avoid making significant life decisions based solely on the results of a single psychological instrument. As you analyze your scores, consider if any of these factors might have influenced your responses:

  • Recent life events that triggered intense self-reflection or social withdrawal.

  • Cultural differences affecting how you express needs.

  • Misunderstanding the terminology used in the assessment.

  • A conscious effort to avoid extreme responses.

  • Pressure from your environment to exhibit certain behaviors.

The Three Interpersonal Needs

The FIRO-B instrument is based on a model that identifies three fundamental interpersonal needs: Inclusion, Control, and Affection. Table 1 (not shown here) outlines the terminology used in the six-cell model that forms the basis of FIRO-B interpretation. We will first define each need using the terms in Table 2 (not shown here) and then explore how each need can be either Expressed or Wanted. Finally, we'll bring it all together in Tables 3 and 4 (not shown here) to illustrate the model with behavioral examples in Table 5 (shown later). The remaining sections of Part 1 will explain how to interpret your FIRO-B scores. Part 2 will discuss how to apply your FIRO-B results in various contexts.

The FIRO-B assessment gauges your interpersonal needs in these three areas:

  • Inclusion (I): This relates to forming new relationships, connecting with others, and determines the extent of social contact and prominence you seek.

  • Control (C): This pertains to decision-making, influence, and persuasion, and determines the level of power or dominance you desire.

  • Affection (A): This concerns emotional connections and warmth between people, and determines the level of intimacy you seek.

Expressed and Wanted Needs

For each of the three interpersonal needs (Inclusion, Control, and Affection), the FIRO-B assessment also measures how much each need is expressed or wanted by you. 

According to FIRO theory, the extent to which a person initiates the behavior is called the Expressed dimension of the need, and the extent to which a person prefers to be the recipient of those behaviors is called the Wanted dimension of the need.

Here's an example to illustrate this concept:

  • Expressed Control (eC): If you have a high need for Expressed Control, you likely enjoy taking charge, influencing others, and organizing activities.

  • Wanted Control (wC): On the other hand, a high Wanted Control score indicates a preference for clear instructions, defined roles, and having decisions made for you.

Expressed and Wanted behaviors operate dynamically between individuals. How someone responds to Expressed behavior from others depends on how much they Want that type of behavior. In this way, Wanted behavior represents the level of tolerance and acceptance for Expressed behaviors from others.

By comparing your three Total Need scores, you can identify the interpersonal area where you are most comfortable. This score can be used to understand how you react to new social situations. Here are some examples:

  • Strongest Need: Inclusion (I): You focus on "fitting in," making connections, and getting involved.

  • Strongest Need: Control (C): You focus on understanding the structure and order of the situation, like who's in charge and decision-making processes.

  • Strongest Need: Affection (A): You focus on building trust, exchanging ideas, and developing meaningful relationships.

From your Total Need scores, you can also predict which interpersonal needs you are most likely to compromise in different social settings. Your lowest score indicates the area you are most willing to give up, while your highest score signifies the area you prioritize. For instance:

  • Highest: Control (C), Lowest: Affection (A): You might prioritize clear instructions and structure over opportunities for emotional connection in a work situation.

  • Highest: Affection (A), Lowest: Inclusion (I): You might prefer working intensely with a small group to develop close relationships over being involved with many people in a new project.

Situations that consistently allow you to fulfill your strongest needs are the ones you'll gravitate towards. These situations may involve specific people you enjoy working with, a committee you function well in, or a particular task you find stimulating. Conversely, situations that emphasize your weakest needs are the ones you'll likely avoid over time.

Primary Patterns

The interplay between how each need is expressed and wanted results in a pattern of need fulfillment that characterizes your interpersonal behavior. The extent to which your scores are high or low reflects how consistently you rely on the same pattern to satisfy your needs across different social situations.

Individuals with scores in the medium range exhibit more flexibility and adapt their behavior patterns based on the specific situation or people involved.

While all the behaviors listed in Table 5 (shown later) might be characteristic of you at times, your scores will indicate how much you tend to rely on each pattern. Scores that directly match a specific box (e.g., high el (7-9) with low wl (0-2), high eC (7-9) with high wC (7-9)) suggest those behaviors represent your actions in most situations. Scores falling within the medium range (3-6) indicate a more flexible approach, where you adjust your behavior depending on the context.

The following tables provide a breakdown of the three needs (Inclusion, Control, Affection) and how they are expressed (e) and wanted (w) along with behavioral examples:








High Expressed Inclusion (el)

Low Expressed Inclusion (el)











I include others and like to be included.

I enjoy the opportunity to provide input.

I don't like to get cut off from information and updates.

I seek recognition and endorsement from colleagues’ and superiors.

 I don't make much distinction between work or social gatherings.

 I like to organize social activities with my business associates.

I may act first to avoid rejection by others.

I form relationships based on common interests and skills.

I'd rather "play it safe" than let others know I want to be included.

I wait for others to invite me to join them.

I sometimes feel inhibited in social settings.

I may over dramatize to gain attention. I sometimes fear rejection or the loss of relationships.

I want others to acknowledge my efforts.








I get many invitations but I often turn them down or don't show up.

I pick and choose which company social events to attend.

I have a select group of people that I enjoy working with. I am not bothered by rejection.

I am exhausted by constant meetings.

I believe it is important to maintain limited "connections" and networks

I prefer working with a small group of people.

I avoid forming too many friendships at work.

I may discourage invitations to company social events.

I avoid being the focus of attention in meetings.

I find recognition less important than accomplishment of the task.

I need time alone to do my best work







High Expressed Control (eC)

Low Expressed Control (eC)












I like to provide structure for others.

I work very hard and then "kick back" and let others run the show.

I relate well to authorities in the organization.

I tolerate control from others.

I enjoy making decisions and following orders.

I search for broad organizational issues where I can take charge and fulfill mandates.

I respect consistency and standards.


I accept control from those in authority.

I am not interested in gaining influence.

I am a loyal and cooperative follower.

I am frustrated by inconsistencies.

I prefer to work according to set procedures.

I prefer to check my decisions with others.

I prefer extensive orientation and training when in a new job












I enjoy taking control and being recognized.

I am uncomfortable delegating responsibility.

I can be very competitive and demand perfection from others.

I set high goals for myself and others.

I want the autonomy to do the job myself.

I believe that I can extend my abilities into almost any new area.

I may veto decisions I've asked others to make.



I prefer not to make important decisions.

I don't want to be closely supervised.

I can be stubborn and rebellious.

I think of myself as self-sufficient.

I am hesitant to ask for help or acknowledge difficulties.

I want to move at my own speed.

I like to work on projects that aren't politicized.





High Expressed Affection (eA)

Low Expressed Affection (eA)











I am friendly, open, and optimistic.

I value trustworthiness.

I have difficulty controlling interruptions at work.

I motivate others by praise and support and am best motivated in the same way.

I enjoy resolving conflicts and negotiating. I feel sad when group projects or regular contact with colleagues ends.


I believe that too much self-disclosure is unprofessional.

 I know more about colleagues than they know about me.

I may have difficulty saying no to requests to take on more work.

I avoid conflict but am willing to facilitate.

I gain closeness from others by managing

Undesirable projects.













I am generally friendly but I am selective about close relationships.

I use praise to motivate others but find it unnecessary myself.

I limit close working relationships to a select few.

I may wonder if others' interest in me is sincere.

I am comfortable disclosing personal information but do not expect others to reciprocate.

I believe that friendliness is integral to working relationships.



I tend to be task oriented and businesslike.

I feel uncomfortable with expressiveness or affection at work.

I enjoy my privacy.

I do not seek reassurance from others, nor do I provide it. I prefer observing to participating.

I often do not have a reaction or opinion to an issue unless it directly influences me


Table 5: Inclusion (I)

Expressed (e)

Behaviors Indicating Expressed Inclusion (el)

Wanted (w)

Behaviors Indicating Wanted Inclusion (wl)

I make an effort to include others in my activities.

 Talking and joking with others Taking a personal interest in others Involving others in projects and meetings Recognizing the accomplishments of others Incorporating everyone's ideas and suggestions Offering helpful information or "tips" to new colleagues

I want other people to include me in their activities and to invite me to belong.

Frequenting heavily trafficked areas (e.g., the water cooler) Wearing distinctive clothing Decorating the work space with personal keepsakes  Seeking recognition or responsibility Getting involved in high-profile projects and activities Going along with the majority opinion

Table 6: Control (C)

Expressed (e)

Behaviors Indicating Expressed Control (eC)

Wanted (w)

Behaviors Indicating Wanted Control (wC)

I try to exert control and influence over things.

 Assuming positions of authority Advancing an idea within the group Taking a competitive stance and making winning a priority Managing the conversation Influencing others' opinions 

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