+31 6 50205153   |   info@goossensbv.com

From explaining to shaping

(for Paul)

Leary’s Rose is a model for characterising communication and behaviour – it is therefore intrinsically a social, interpersonal model. The model is constructed with two axes and four quadrants, with each quadrant being further subdivided into two parts.

Leary’s Rose

The horizontal axis represents the emotional direction of the relationship we form with the other person: do we stress affiliation or opposition? The vertical axis represents the power attitude we take in the relationship with the other: do we stress dominance or subordination?

The Leary model now predicts that communication and behaviour of the other will be a function of our own behaviour and communication along these two axes in the following manner:

* on the horizontal axis the other will copy our position – if we show affiliation then it will be answered with affiliation, and if we show opposition it will be answered with opposition

* on the vertical axis the other will invert our position – if we show dominance than it will be answered by subordination, and if we show subordination it will be ansered with dominance

This theory or model now supposes two very important things:

  1. the initiative in any communication or behaviour with others is definining for the resulting group behaviour and its functional or dysfunctional characteristics in view of the resulting effects and implied moral
  2. the consciousness of the participants of their behaviour and communication in terms of (the assumptions of) this model is defining for the very possibility of escaping the deterministic implications of the model itself.

These aspects deserve some deeper investigation, particularly in view of the “speech act” theory that I’ve mentioned on another page of this notebook.The Leary model actually is a (limited but important) group dynamics theory, and implies some recipes for arriving at any interaction that happens to be desired by the one who is both conscious of this model and willing and able to take the initiative in interactions – e.g. with his co-workers in a project team. Not surprisingly, choosing/using the right words is crucial here.

This may sound like manipulation to you – and in a way it certainly is, but only as long as someone has the advantages of knowing the model and wilfully taking the intiative without the others being aware of that. However, what will happen when all participants in some group interaction are conscious of the Leary Rose model, and are willing and able to take the initiative, so as to shape the group dynamics to their desires? Clearly, the net advantage of being conscious of the model is lost if every participant in the communication and behaviour is conscious of the model. And by the same token, if everyone is taking the initiative then effectively nobody is.

So the very possibility of applying the Leary model to actively shape reality (rather than passively explaining it) also shows us the power that comes with asymmetrical information distribution. Or maybe we should say: asymmetrical information distribution is a form of power, insofar as power can be defined as the capacity to make someone else do something that they wouldn’t necessarily do if that power were not exercised.

As the old saying goes: few things are as practical as a good theory. Though direct translation into action may be complex, Leary’s Rose clearly is part of that bouquet of Machiavellian flowers that ooze the heavy scent of influence.