Author: Shelley Lewin, Life and Relationship Coach, SDI Certified Facilitator

Wouldn’t it be great if your clients came with an instruction manual on how they like to be related to? Becoming a skilled Therapeutic Massage Therapist doesn’t only require instruction and understanding of the hard skills (anatomy knowledge, techniques, skills etc). Mastery, in an industry of service, requires the soft skills of how to be “good at” relationships; relating to each patient in a way that they appreciate and enjoy. It requires having insight into what drives us, what makes us tick, and empowers us to communicate in a way that achieves instant rapport and connection.
Psychologist, clinical therapist, educator and author Elias Porter Ph.D. developed Relationship Awareness® Theory, which provides those insights. The theory is taught in an interactive way with its learning tool known as SDI (Strengths Deployment Inventory). It is a dynamic and powerful way of looking at human relationships that helps build communication, trust and empathy, reduce conflict and ultimately provide for more effective personal and professional relationships.
Recently I had the privilege of presenting Relationship Awareness® at the second Conscious Movement Pilates Conference held in Cape Town this year, where international and renowned local presenters covered a wide range of topics including Pilates, Gyrotonic, Hellerwork, Kettle bells and more.

The positive feedback from instructors on their insights into building relationships with clients was overwhelming. In essence, SDI helps us to understand what makes us tick, or what makes us feel good about ourselves in two sets of circumstances i.e. when things are going well, and when things are not going well (in conflict).

Porter states as one of four main premises that behaviour is driven by motivation. He elaborates further by stating that there are, what he calls, 7 Motivational Value Systems (MVS). These MVS are divided into four main types, represented as colours. Recognizing early on what makes a client tick by asking the right kinds of questions and keeping an eye on observable behaviours, therapists are able to interpret to some degree, the Motivational Value System of their clients, from their clients’ behaviour/language.

In an ideal situation, I would facilitate a half, full or two-day workshop. The theory extends far and deep, not even a two hour talk does it justice. For purposes of this article I have skimmed the surface extracting a few descriptions of each of the main MVS (the remaining three are a blend of two combinations e.g. red-blue, red-green, blue-green).Below is a generalization of the motivations driving the behaviour of the ‘types’ Red, Blue, Green and Hub

BLUE CLIENTS: The ‘Nice’ people of the world.

Expectation: A pleasurable experience
Focus on: It being a friendly, caring, pleasant experience. They need to ‘feel’ good and that you care about them and their lives. Be open, honest, personal and sincere. Listen fully and attentively, ask for their ideas, reactions, and feelings. People Focused.

Blues Motives, Priorities and Observable Behaviours:
• motivated by a concern for the protection, growth and welfare of others
• sincere, trusting, softly spoken, accommodating
• sensitive to the needs of others
• wants to engage and build rapport with others

RED CLIENTS: The ‘Doers’ of the world.

Expectation: Progress and achievement
Focus on: Outcomes. What will I achieve by when? No desire for details. Be clear, direct, positive and brief. Start with a goal or result and get to the point quickly. Identify opportunities and challenges. Have clear time frames, end results, benefits and relevant facts. Be punctual. Task focused.

Red’s Motives, Priorities and Observable Behaviours:
• motivated by a concern for task accomplishment and achieving results
• organizes and directs others
• purposeful, clear and direct in their communication with others
• makes quick decisions
• ambitious and alert to opportunities

GREEN CLIENTS: The ‘Thinkers/ Analysts’ of the world.

Expectation: Self Improvement and Understanding of the science of massage therapy
Focus on: The details. The science of massage. The name of the technique, the purpose, the muscles used. Be methodical. Explain why you are doing this. Be logical, fair and in control of emotions. Respect principles and procedures. Process Focused.

Green’s Motives, Priorities and Observable Behaviours:
• motivated by a concern for practical analysis and establishing order
• thinks things through, likes things to ‘make sense’
• clear, concise, unemotional communication with even voice tones
• prefers to observe surroundings and collect information before participating fully
• objective and logical with an emphasis on fairness

HUB CLIENTS: The ‘Team Players’ of the world.

Expectation: Social with a broad range of variety
Focus on: A mix of equipment, something different every time. A social, fun experience. Be flexible, sociable and playful. Maintain balance of process, people and goals. Remain open to new ideas, options and possibilities. Collaboration focused.

Hub’s Motives, Priorities and Observable Behaviours:
• motivated by a concern for flexibility and adapting to other people
• focus is on the group, making sure everyone is included
• provides opinions, alternate view points, considers multiple topics simultaneously
• likes to hear multiple opinions, builds consensus
• adapts to needs depending on the situation

Ideally, when we understand MVS we can develop some self awareness of our own MVS and where our strengths and blind spots might be. Another advantage of understanding the basic principles of SDI is the importance of tailoring your sessions to all the different MVS of your clients. When it comes to solving rapport building problems, there is a saying, if all you have is a hammer, all you will see is nails. In this approach, each client is acknowledged as having different needs; consequently, a different approach will suit the individual. A one size fits all approach can only take you so far.

Elias H. Porter, PhD.: Relationship Awareness Theory, Manual of Administration and Interpretation. Ninth Edition. Personal Strengths Publishing. USA. 1996.