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6 Enacting appropriate responses

Being able to diagnose behaviour using the interpersonal circle model is one aspect of the skill-set required for building rapport, while another is the ability to avoid maladaptive behaviour. The final skill is being able to be versatile in your behaviour as it maps onto the adaptive variant of the circle.

You already know the principles of the interpersonal circle model and have learned about the risk of maladaptive responding. You have also learned about how to adaptively ‘meet’ the behaviour of another person. However, sometimes you may want to use the principles of the circle to control your own behaviour and see how that might move someone else around the circle.

Think again about the two axes of the circle and take hostility as an example. If the person you’re communicating with is hostile, it can be a good idea to respond adaptively to that hostility with positive adaptive forms of confrontation, provided that – as you learned – you listen carefully to their responses. But sometimes being cooperative towards someone demonstrating hostility – especially extreme hostility – might start to pull them around the circle to meet you on the cooperative side. If you think about it, it’s very hard to continue with hostility if someone is really nice to you!

As you get more experienced in using the circle as a tool in your communication, you can start to adapt your own behaviour (which is, after all, the only thing you can control) and observe what works to make your conversational partner keep talking.