The Interpersonal Circumplex is a psychological model for conceptualizing, organizing, and assessing interpersonal motives, dispositions, and interactions. It us a valuable tool to help us understand ourselves and the way we are perceived. 

The Circumplex is defined graphically by two orthogonal axes (which means two lines - one up and down, one side to side).  

1. The vertical (up and down) axis reflects agency (who has the power: dominance to submissive range)
2. The horizontal (side to side) axis reflects affiliation (do I want to be with this person or move away from them: friendly to hostile)

These axes lie in a circle. The colors and arrows tell you where things are pulling. 

Some basic rules:

  • Hostile pulls for hostile, friendly pulls for friendly.
  • Dominant pulls for submissive and visa versa. 
  • We can't always know how we are perceived, but we can tell by other's responses to us.

So, someone who is passive aggressive (which is hostile submissive) perceives us as hostile dominant. So, we need to move ourselves towards a friendly dominant place, or at the very least a neutral place to be effective.


How can this help you?

  • When you feel like you are being pulled to a place you do not want to be, go to neutral. 
  • Neutral is the middle part of the circle.
  • Neutral allows you to step back and recognize your individual “hot spot” or what is being “pulled” .
  • It helps you understand your response and how it relates to the other person, allows you to recognize where you are on the circle and where other people are.
  • It helps you gain more information and plan your next move.