The Components of a Relationship

The first challenge of understanding relationships is to see the components within an interaction. Once we see these components, we can understand the relationship and its impact upon the group, and we can plan to act upon each of the types of relationships. Seeing the components within relationships allows us to find opportunities where a different interaction could help the group be more successful.


Think of an interaction that you observed (and did not participate in). This can be any interaction, though an interaction that produced a clear outcome (a decision, an action by a member of the group, etc.) will be more easily examined.


  • What was the result of the interaction? Did it affect the performance of the group in the future?

  • What was exchanged? What type of interchange elements are these? Was something not exchanged that should have been?

  • Are the interchange elements being passed appropriately – in this interaction and other similar interactions -- for the completion and combination of individual tasks? What role did these interchanges have on group members’ tasks?

  • What structural characteristics of these interchange elements affected the success or failure of the interchange as performed in this event?

  • How could these interchanges be more useful to the members of the group?

  • What emotions did the participants display? What underlying assumptions (for example, motivation and intent) do you believe caused these emotions?

  • Are the emotion components of these ongoing relationships supporting combined group efforts, or are they distracting and harmful to the group’s success?

  • Were the behaviors in this interaction viewed as individual or group-directed? Is this perception accurate?

  • Does this interaction represent continuity with past interactions, or did something new occur here? Was there a new behavior performed in this interaction?

  • Are the members limiting or adjusting their behavior based on past interactions, for good or bad?

  • How could this interaction have been more productive? What might have occurred that would allow the participants to perform their tasks better?