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General Contexts

Intrapersonal Communication (Persuasion)

Interpersonal Communication

Small Group Communication

Organizational Communication

Intercultural Communication

Mass Communication

Applied Contexts

Health Communication

Instructional Communication

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Last updated Feb. 14, 2001


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Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Orientation (FIRO)

Explanation of Theory:

This theory concentrates on three interpersonal needs that most people share: the needs for inclusion, for control and for affection.  Schutz maintains that people begin relationships in order to satisfy one or more of these needs.

Theorists: W.C. Schutz

Date: 1958

Primary Article:

    Schutz, W.C.  (1958).  FIRO: A Three Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior.  New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston. 

Metatheoretical Assumptions:

This is a humanistic theory because it has intuitive credibility, it makes sense and is relative to actual communication practice. It has a systematic approach and is timely.  There are multiple truths.  It also has heuristic value because it is easily applicable to situations.


Although Schutz believes that persons seek ways to fulfill these three needs, his system does not presume that all persons are equally motivated by them or that the needs can predict human behavior precisely in any given circumstance.  The three basic interpersonal needs are inclusion, control and affection.  Inclusion refers to people's need to be recognized as participants in human interaction.  If a feeling of inclusion is a baseline condition for healthy human existence, then the need to make a difference through control is the next logical level.  The use of the term control as it applies to this theory refers to people's desires to make a difference in their social environments and to have some say over what happens.  Finally, people seek a sense of interpersonal warmth or of being liked or loved.  Friendship and other intimate relations often serve this function, of course, and the absence of such relationships is a source of much of the alienation we feel from time to time.


Student Friendly Example: Jessica moved into the dorms as a freshman.  The first moments after her parents had moved her in and said their goodbyes were the scariest of her life.  She realized that for the first time in her life, she was alone.  It didn't take long for Jessica to convince herself that she was going to make an effort to make new friends.  She knew if she didn't, life would be miserable.  She soon began to meet girls on her floor and many times they would all go to dinner together.  She was starting to be included in the girls activities which made her feel better about being in a strange town and not knowing a soul.  As time went by, the girls on Jessica's floor became her best friends.  They shared so much their first year of college and continued to as the years went by.  Jessica's basic needs for inclusion, affection and control were all important in making her life in college more pleasant. 

Relevant Research:

     Hafner, R. J & Ross, M.W (1989).  "The FIRO Model of Family Therapy: Implications of Factor Analysis."  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 974.

     Green, V.A. & Wildermuth, N.L. (1993).  "Self Focus, Other Focus, and Interpersonal Needs as Correlates of Loneliness."  Psychological Reports, 73, 843.

     Bakken, L. & Romig, C. (1992).  "Interpersonal Needs in Middle Adolescents: Companionship, Leadership, and Intimacy." Journal of Adolescents, 15, 301.

Location in Eight (8) Primary Communication Theory Textbooks:

     Anderson, R., & Ross, V. (1998). Questions of communication: A practical introduction to theory (2nd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. 161-162.

     Cragan, J. F., & Shields, D.C. (1998). Understanding communication theory: The communicative forces for human action. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. N/A

     Griffin, E. (2000). A first look at communication theory (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill. N/A

     Griffin, E. (1997). A first look at communication theory (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. N/A

      Infante, D. A., Rancer, A. S., & Womack, D. F. (1997). Building communication theory (3rd ed.). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press. N/A

      Littlejohn, S. W. (1999). Theories of human communication (6th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A

      West, R., & Turner, L. H. (2000). Introducing communication theory: Analysis and application. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. N/A

       Wood, J. T. (1997). Communication theories in action: An introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. N/A