Dr. Eric D. Shaw, Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Ltd.


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Case 10: Relationship Management

As noted above, the shift to on-line communications has facilitated many forms of relationship, but the loss of visual and verbal clues makes it more difficult to understand the psychology of those with whom we are trying to communicate.  This problem led us to test the feasibility of using WarmTouch’s profiling capability to help an individual assess and facilitate his relationships with his superior, colleagues and subordinates at work.    For this purpose, we asked Jack, a corporate vice president at a large financial institution, to select three individuals with whom his working relationship was important.  He selected his immediate superior, Bob; a fellow vice present, John, with whom he shared a fairly uncooperative and competitive relationship; and Phyllis, a liaison between him and his customers.  

As a first step in our efforts we used WarmTouch to check the emotional tone of John, Phyllis and Bob’s email communications to Jack.  We asked Jack to download these emails from a specific time period and asked WarmTouch to tell us the emotional tone of the correspondence by scoring the balance of positive and negative feelings and evaluators (judgments about persons, places, ideas, objects, etc.).  We also counted the number of negatives used in these emails as a measure of opposition or anger.  This produced the graph displayed in the figure below which charts the distribution of these emails by visibility (number of emails from each party) and emotional tone of the emails, or their valence.       

As the figure indicates, Jack receives many positive emails from his boss, Bob;  relatively fewer, less positive emails from Phyllis; and he rarely hears from John but when he does these communications are negative.  Jack’s emails to his three colleagues mirror this pattern, as shown in the next figure below.   He communicates rarely with John, but when he does, his messages are negative.  He communicates more frequently with Phyllis, who he reports having a good relationship with, but his emails are still predominantly negative.    He also rarely “speaks” with Bob and his communications are barely positive.

Visibility and Valence of emails to Jack from Bob, Phyllis & John 

The next figure below summarizes the results of these findings by comparing the relative balance in tone of the emails of all four parties.  This graph tells us a great deal about Jack’s communication and how he can improve it.  He needs to increase the frequency and positive content of his communications.  After helping Jack understand this problem, we also helped him use WarmTouch to facilitate this change.  Before sending emails to these three he ran the content through the system which told him the balance of negative and positive content, highlighted the words involved and helped him alter the content accordingly.  

Visibility and Valence of Jack’s emails to Bob, Phyllis & John

Comparison of Negative and Positive email contents. _ 

Next we wanted to see WarmTouch’s profiling capabilities could be of further assistance to Jack.  We thought a comparison of some of Jack’s characteristics with his colleagues might help him improve his communications.  The next four figures display comparative scores for the four employees on several WarmTouch trait “dashboards” covering characteristics such as expressiveness, team player, initiates versus reacts, dogmatic versus flexible,  rational versus morale-oriented in decision-making and sensitivity to the environment.  These results told us that Jack has a great deal of common ground with John, while he is different from Phyllis and Bob in many ways. 

Dashboard comparison of traits




Based on this analysis some of the recommendations regarding his communication with his colleagues included:

  • Add more emotionally expressive terms such as positive feelings and judgments to all his communications, especially those with Phyllis and Bob, to more closely match their communication style and personalities;
  • To improve his communications with John, incorporate their personality similarities in his emails—both prefer to operate as individuals versus team players, react to events, rather than initiate, have strong values and beliefs and like to make decisions rationally rather than based on interpersonal or political issues; and
  • Use your advantage in sensitivity to the environment (the ability to detect subtlety, changes, perceives shades of grey versus seeing things as black versus white) in your communications.

Jack’s use of the system and this advice resulted in improved communications and relations with all three parties, especially John.  He used WarmTouch to start sending John detailed emails containing factual information with conclusions that emphasized their shared strong values and beliefs but also shared insights based on his sensitivity to technical and political factors in the environment. Rather than pressuring John to take the initiative on common issues, he presented detailed information and gave John time to consider and react.  Before sending these communications, he ran them through WarmTouch to ensure the correct emotional and psychological tone and then charted John’s reactions using the system.   

WarmTouch’s profiling and relationship tracking and management capabilities might be equally helpful for those with important email relationships such as individuals using on-line communications for sales, management or social life.


© Copyright 2009 by Eric D. Shaw, Ph.D.


Contact: DrShaw@DrEricShaw.com (E-mail is not secure. Please do not send private information.)  Phone 202-686-9150