Functional Fluency Interpersonal Effectiveness
Functional Fluency is the art and skill of interpersonal effectiveness.

Functional Fluency gives clear insight into the effectiveness of behavior. Susannah Temple coined the term in 1996 to mean those positive and flexible ways of responding to each other that help us to communicate well. Functional Fluency is about our social "response-ability".


The Functional Fluency model and the related practical approach, provide a sound base to enhance (inter)personal effectiveness and develop Fluent (Self-) Leadership. The model illustrates a range of fundamental social behaviors. It provides a framework for learning how to build positive relationships.


By learning how the model works and how to apply it you can increase your self-awareness. It gives access to an understanding of how you can develop your emotional literacy, which can lead to improvements in self-esteem and self-confidence.

People who are functionally fluent tend to be confident, assertive, autonomous and authentic. They are supportive and are able to use authority in such a way that everybody benefits.

How teams and organizations can benefit from Functional Fluency

When your organization relies on people working together to produce a result, then having functionally fluent team members and employees is going to result in them being happier, more productive and more successful.

Leaders who are functionally fluent affirm and inspire others. They understand how their own patterns of behavior have an impact on the people they lead. Functionally fluent leaders are then able to choose positive and productive ways of relating.

The Functional Fluency Model

The full Functional Fluency Model has nine modes of behavior. Each mode is described by six key adjectives that capture as far as possible the full meaning. It is these adjectives that form the basis for the questionnaire in the TIFF© tool. In order to use the Functional Fluency model, you need to understand the nature of the modes and how human beings use them.

The four Social Responsibility modes

It is helpful to consider the four Social Responsibility modes together. They are often referred to as the four ‘Being in Charge Modes’. These modes are about how we use our energy on behalf of others. This includes how we take charge of ourselves. The vital question is: "Do people benefit or suffer from our ways of guiding and directing and of looking after people?" How do we give guidance and care to others and ourselves? How do we use our authority? Do we empower or dis-empower? Do we cherish or harm with our caring?

The two elements of Care and Control each have a positive effective and a negative ineffective mode.

Dominating Mode

This is the term for destructive Control, which dis-empowers through coercion and by focusing on the negative. It undermines self-esteem with criticism or put-downs, threats or warnings, and may punish mistakes.


The hidden message is:

“You are not good enough”.

Negative control

Marshmallowing Mode

This is a new term designed to express the soft and hidden harmfulness of negative Care, which gives too much attention, or the wrong sort, and which does too much for people while lacking clear boundaries or expectations.


The hidden message is:

“You inadequate”.

Negative care

Positive control

Structuring Mode

This is the term for constructive Control, which empowers through inspiration and by enabling success. Guidance & help are given so that people feel safe to explore & learn. They gain self confidence. Expectations & limits are clear and consistent.


The hidden message is:

“You can do it and succeed”.

Positive care

Nurturing Mode

This is the familiar term for positive Care in action, which is responsive to need and offers the empathy and understanding that enables people to recover, thrive and grow a healthy and positive sense of self.


The hidden message is:

“You are loveable and valuable”.

Accounting Mode is different from others

Central in the Functional Fluency model is Accounting. Accounting is an internal activity. We operate Accounting mode inside our head, heart and guts. The term ‘Accounting’ is a double metaphor. There are two aspects. The first is the taking into account of all that we see, hear, feel and gather through our other senses and know from intuition and experience. The second aspect is the making of sense of all this so that it is of use to us realistically in the here and now for deciding what to do next. It is part of the construction of our ongoing unique inner story – or ‘account’


Reality assessment

Accounting Mode

This is the term for a person’s reality-testing facility, for monitoring inner and outer current events, assessing significances, computing consequences and possible options and gathering more information as needed.


To do Accounting well we need to use higher order thinking skills.

The four Self-actualizing Modes

These are ways of behaving concerned with identity - how I express myself as the person I am and how I impact on my environment. These modes are about how I use energy on my own behalf, both for doing my own thing in my own way and for getting along with others.

The two Socialized Element Modes have been learned in response to earlier environmental, especially social demands, while the two Natural Self Modes both have free-flowing, uncensored behaviors. Each element has a positive effective and a negative ineffective mode.

Cooperative Mode

This mode is the result of useful social learning that supports a person’s ability to relate appropriately to others from an I’m OK – You’re OK position, with mutual benefit. It enhances the person’s experience of working and enjoying leisure with others.

Negative socialized self

Spontaneous Mode

This mode is the unrestrained, yet age & context-appropriate, expression of a person’s own creativity and unique way of doing things. It enhances satisfaction with life, and the natural re-energizing process that enables relaxation and playfulness at any age.

Negative natutal self

Negative socialised self

Compliant/Resistant Mode

This mode includes the wide range of currently counter-productive social behaviors that are a result of previously learned ways to survive and het enough attention. They are the result of out-dated beliefs about self and need to be relearned


Negative natural self

Immature Mode

This mode (in grown-up people) shows unrestrained self-expression inappropriate to age and context. The behaviors natural to early childhood, have not yet been grown out of and interfere with adult social effectiveness. New learning is needed.

More information pages

Special features of the Functional Fluency model

The Functional Fluency model puts a strong focus on the positive modes of behavior. People find this a supportive and helpful thing to do first. Then they feel more like exploring their use of the negative modes.


Learning about all the Functional Fluency modes and how they use them in different contexts helps people to gain insights about their own behavior. They realize there are ways to make the changes they want. They can plan how to use the positive modes more and the negative ones less.

This sort of self-awareness and understanding is the basis for developing emotional literacy and for building self-esteem, confidence and the ability to build positive relationships. People become more functionally fluent; they increase their interpersonal effectiveness.

The Functional Fluency model invites personal responsibility for behavior in two important ways:

  • There is no terminology that subtly shifts the locus of control, as in, for instance, “My Parent won’t let me”, or “My Child likes…”. Instead, use of the model encourages what is known as ‘I-talk’. “When I use Dominating Mode, I’m inclined to do such-and-such. I need to do more Accounting and try out ways to do Structuring effectively”.
  • There is no typing or stereotyping that might turn ‘reasons’ for behaving in a certain way into ‘excuses’, as in, for instance, “I can’t help doing such-and-such, because I’m a ‘so-and-so’ type”. Instead, the model encourages people to widen their perspectives and possibilities for change by increasing their self-awareness and understanding of their own unique patterns of behavior and their likely consequences.


The Functional Fluency model provides both the security of a framework common to everyone while TIFF offers the adventure of using the model in a personally unique way. This is why the support and inspiration of the TIFF Provider is so important for those using the TIFF questionnaire.