Theory Overview

The Four Premises of Relationship Awareness
Motivational Value Systems™
Conflict Sequences™
The Impact Of Personal Filters
Beyond Behavior

It is part of the human condition to attribute motive to others’ behavior. Relationship Awareness Theory is a self-learning model for effectively and accurately understanding and inferring the motive behind the behavior.

Relationship Awareness® gives organizations and individuals the awareness and skills they need to build more effective personal and professional relationships. It helps them to sustain those relationships through understanding the underlying Motivational Value Systems™ of themselves and others under two conditions:

  1. When things are going well
  2. During conflict

The theory helps people to recognize that they can choose their behaviors to accommodate their underlying values, while also taking into account the values of others. It is a dynamic and powerful way of looking at human relationships that aids in building communication, trust, empathy, and effective, productive relationships.

The Theory (and the psychometric tests which are based on it) were developed by psychologist, clinical therapist, educator, and author Elias H. Porter, Ph.D.


In Relationship Awareness Theory, Dr. Porter integrates quite diverse streams of psychological thought. In particular, in his theory Porter acknowledges the purposive behaviorism of Edward Tolman, the empiricism of Kurt Lewin, the client-centered therapy of Carl Rogers and the Neo-Freudian personality theories of Erich Fromm and Karen Horney. The theory itself is founded on four simple, yet profound, premises:

  1. Behavior is driven by motivation to achieve self-worth.
  2. Motivation changes in conflict
  3. Strengths, when overdone or misapplied, can be perceived as weaknesses
  4. Clarity and face validity enhance self-discovery

Relationship Awareness Theory looks at how we go about establishing and maintaining relationships in order to have a positive sense of ourselves and our value as a person.


Relationship Awareness Theory identifies seven general themes or clusters of motives known as Motivational Value Systems (MVS). Each MVS can be traced through the work of Freud and Fromm.  Relationship Awareness describes them in terms of positive strivings for self-worth by adults in relationships.

Blue MVSAltruistic–Nurturing (Blue): Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others

Red MVSAssertive–Directing (Red): Concern for task accomplishment and concern for organization of people, time, money and any other resources to achieve desired results

Green MVSAnalytic–Autonomizing (Green): Concern for assurance that things have been properly thought out  and concern for meaningful order being established and maintained

Hub MVSFlexible–Cohering (Hub): Concern for flexibility… concern for the welfare of the group… concern for the members of the group and for belonging in the group

Red-Blue MVSAssertive–Nurturing (Red-Blue Blend): Concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others through task accomplishment and leadership

Red-Green MVSJudicious–Competing (Red-Green Blend): Concern for intelligent assertiveness, justice, leadership, order, and fairness in competition

Blue-Green MVSCautious–Supporting (Blue-Green Blend): Concern for affirming and developing self-sufficiency in self and others… concern for thoughtful helpfulness with regard for justice

Dr. Porter was the first known psychometrician to use colors (Red, Green and Blue) as shortcuts to communicate the results of a personality test.


Porter’s work in conflict is perhaps his most significant contribution to the field of psychology. Based on his observations with clients and ongoing research into the results of his own psychometrics, he stated “When we are free to pursue our gratifications, we are more or less uniformly predictable, but in the face of continuing conflict or opposition we undergo changes in motivations that link into different bodies of beliefs and concepts that are, in turn, expressed in yet different behavior traits.” Porter’s description of the Conflict Sequence suggests that people experience changes in their motivation predictably and sequentially in up to three stages. More on conflict…


Relationship Awareness Theory claims that one of the primary causes of conflict is the overdoing or perceived overdoing of strengths in relationships; because people experience these overdone strengths as potential threats to self-worth. He suggested that personal filters influence perception; that people tend to use their own motivational values as a standard when evaluating the behavior of others and that the more different two people’s motivational values are from each other, the more likely they would each be to perceive the behaviors of the others as overdone.


Relationship Awareness Theory is a Motivational Theory which addresses the motives that are behind everyday behavior when we are relating to others. Like Freudian theory, it assumes that there is meaning behind all behavior. By shifting our focus from only looking at behavior to looking at the motive behind the behavior, we can gain a clearer understanding of ourselves and others.

In Relationship Awareness Theory we look at behavior in the following way:

  • Behaviors are tools used to get some result or confirm our sense of self-worth. These tools are also used to ward off things we do not want.
  • Motives come from our wish to feel a strong sense of self-worth or self-value.
  • Our individual Motivational Value System is consistent throughout our life and underpins all of our behaviors.
  • Traditional writing about motivation describes motives as something that can be inspired in others. In Relationship Awareness Theory, motives are thought of as already present in every person and readily available to be tapped.

About the author, Elis H. Porter, Ph.D.

For more about Relationship Awareness Theory in Dr. Porter’s own words, click here.