Understanding and improving any relationship

Seven Column Analysis

Acknowledgement: I learned this from Chris Bull who was then with Sheppard Moscow Associates. Thank you Chris.

Introduction

Seven-column analysis is a very simple and powerful tool for understanding and developing any relationship. The relationship is between a person, in column one, and a domain, or part of life, in column two. The domain can be a person department group or even, if you use your imagination, your house or garden. You work through the questions in the columns in the number order given and analyse three or four steps in one interaction. The worked example later should make it clearer. If you are the person write down your answers. If you are helping someone else, write down his or her answers. At the end study the chart.

(You can download editable blank forms here)

 

1 My Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 How do I feel when I respond? 4 How do I respond? 6 What am I valuing when I respond? 7 What is the domain valuing? 3 What does the domain typically say or do? 2 The name of the domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to use this tool

Analyse three or four layers in a typical interaction. Look for distorted communication, particularly between what people feel and what they say. Use the value columns (six and seven) to search for what is really going on. This is usually the client being a victim or competing unhelpfully. Invite the client to think how he or she can change things for the better. Use a tough but supportive style. For further help, see the worked example.

A hypothetical example “The frustrated assistant”

 

 

 

1 My Name

5 How do I feel when I respond? 4 How do I respond? 6 What am I valuing when I respond? 7 What is the domain valuing? 3 What does the domain typically say or do? 2 The name of the domain?
Fred Cross and frustrated.

Impatient too.

I ignore her. My dignity. Avoiding me. She walks past me and grunts. Mary
Cross, used, uninvolved. I ask when it is required by. Being professional. My contribution. Calls me in. She gives me work.
Pleased and anxious Complete my work Being professional Avoiding people. Doing her work. Stays in office
Sad and cross I put the work in her tray. Doing what is expected Getting on with her work Says “Put it over there”

 

 

Analysis

There is considerable distortion in Fred’s communication. What he does is incongruent with what he feels. He is colluding with Mary’s remote and very tasky style. You can see this from the value columns (five and six). He is being a victim. There is possible common ground for improvement as both are interested in Fred making a contribution.

Practical help

You could help Fred level with Mary and create a more productive partnership. Fred could say “I am feeling sad and frustrated at the moment. I want to talk about how we are working together and how it could be better for both of us. What I need is…? What do you need from me?” This direct communication is often frightening in prospect. Ask Fred what is the worst thing that could happen and what will happen he does nothing. Get him to rehearse the conversation with you. Encourage him to be congruent even to go ‘over the top’ with you. This gets the negative feelings out and will empower him.

How would you like the relationship to be?

You can use seven-column analysis directly to improve a relationship. Use the columns, below, as before. This time you decide how you would like the relationship to be and take responsibility for making it that way. The technique is now a planning tool. The worked example should make this clearer.

(You can download editable blank forms here)

 

 

1 My Name

3 How would I like to feel about the domain? 4 What could I do or say that would make me feel that way? 5 What would I be valuing then? 7 What would the domain be valuing? 6 How would the domain respond? 2 The name of the domain
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A hypothetical example “The fulfilled assistant”

 

 

1 My Name

3 How would I like to feel? 4 What could I do or say that would make me feel that way? 5 What would I be valuing then? 7 What would the domain be valuing? 6 How would the domain respond? 2 The name of the domain
Fred Positive and relaxed Tell her about a way I have improved my productivity My contribution.

Her interest.

Encouraging efficiency improvement Say “Well done”. Mary
Valuable Ask her what she was pleased about. Her feedback and my contribution. My contribution. Say “Taking practical initiatives to improve”.
Supported and supportive – a team of two Are there any other areas where we could improve? Working together.

Her contribution.

Making positive change.

My contribution.

We’ve always had problems with…

Any ideas?

 

Analysis

Fred’s communication is now congruent. What he says matches what he feels. Mary responds to his need to make a contribution because this meets her needs for productivity and efficiency.

Practical help

The people we interact with are used to us being a certain way. They may be suspicious of sudden or dramatic changes, even positive ones. They may think you are manipulating them. Slow and gentle changes are more effective. Most people find role-playing the preferred interaction a few times is very helpful. They become more comfortable with it and that makes it more effective in practice. 

Finally

I would be pleased to hear about any new and interesting uses of this tool that you discover.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick