TIFF – the ‘actometric’ in a psychometric world

TIFF – the ‘actometric’ in a psychometric world

The Temple Index of Functional Fluency (TIFF©) is a personal development tool for measuring human social behaviour and how we focus our energy. It is based on the internationally acclaimed, award winning model of social behaviour, Functional Fluency. The ideas were developed by Susannah Temple PhD over the last twenty years and grew out of her educational and therapeutic work using the Transactional Analysis theory of ego states first postulated by Eric Berne in the 1960s and expanded by others in the field since then.

The Functional Fluency model offers a cognitive map for understanding human social behaviour and a menu for promoting the human capacity for choosing what to do or say next. The TIFF tool sits firmly at the positive psychology end of the psychometric spectrum. One end represents the measurement of so-called stable psychological types and/or traits through various profiling tools. At the other end are the metrics that assume we are always responding and changing in relation to the environment and our experience, as a consequence any measurement must of necessity be of the moment. TIFF takes its place at the latter end of the spectrum. The TIFF questionnaire is completed online by the client. The results are presented graphically and numerically and shared with the client – the process being mediated face to face by a TIFF practitioner even if the interface involves technology. The numbers only mean something in relation to each other, in the patterns that emerge and in relation to whether these patterns are based, for instance, on ‘good day’ or ‘bad day’experiences. TIFF is transparent and realistic about the power and the limitations of questionnaire results, giving the client the capacity to make sense of them and put them to use. The feedback is based on an objective showing to the client the Functional Fluency model and what it is about, followed by the subjective exploration of the client’s profiles which are a snapshot of their behavioural patterns and tendencies. The feedback focus is to identify and reinforce behaviour patterns that seem effective, in order to expand them; and to realise which behaviours may be counterproductive and work out how to transform them.

The TIFF practitioner may have some hypotheses about what the data mean, but only by checking them out with the client can we begin to understand the real significances of the behaviours in an individual’s life. So the feedback sessions are carefully considered. The process involves several phases: the contracting, the explanation of the Functional Fluency model; and the joint exploration and making sense of the profiles. The TIFF practitioner’s role is to create the conditions that allow the client to explore the information and its significance – to notice, question and future-focus the information so it is useful to the client in realising their aspirations. This feedback coaching session is an integral and important part of the TIFF process – the outcomes are often unexpected and revelatory. Clients usually leave hopeful and focussed and many talk about the discipline and benefit of identifying their interpersonal strengths. The experience is developmental, enabling the turning of insights into behavioural change. TIFF profiles can be part of longer term coaching relationships. TIFF can also produce group profiles to provide a foundation for workshops that can enable team members to increase a mutual understanding that helps in turn to develop mutual respect and empathy. The team benefits from the growing trust and cooperation engendered by the process. In comparison with other psychometrics, TIFF’s focus on behaviour and on the shared expertise of client and practitioner creates a shift in perspective from trying to capture something stable, knowable and unchanging to the idea of a provisional reality which is continuously open to influence and change. The TIFF experience minimises the possibility of magical thinking, because the client is NOT left with a pack of information telling them who they are, which category they fit into and what this means by the psychological expert they have access to. There is no invisible ‘deus ex machina’ waiting in the wings to dispense wisdom and explain everything as if there is one perspective which is more ‘right’ than all the others. With TIFF, the power to take or leave what is useful here-and-now remains in the hands of the client.


For those of us learning professionals who see our work as helping people to help themselves – a huge part of which is giving individuals permission to think
for themselves – TIFF fits our frame of reference. It is structurally and dynamically designed to take account of individual difference and can only be usefully used collaboratively.  It also embeds the idea of the individual in roles of social responsibility and places greater emphasis than other models on relating to others. Functional Fluency and TIFF are about interpersonal effectiveness and how to increase it. There is self, there is here-and-now accounting and there is self in relation to others. All of these perspectives are key to a human’s ability to survive and thrive. The focus on the social versus individual aspects of being human is one of the current concerns of neuro-psychology and new research has led to changes in how we conceive of successful decisionmaking, effective leadership and organisational culture. TIFF fits firmly within this current zeitgeist. We aren’t only thinkers. We are all feelers and doers and ignoring these aspects in psychometrics is no longer viable in the current state of neuro-scientific knowledge. Hence the coining of “actometric” to define the nature of TIFF. The model suggests that Functional Fluency is the ability to blend the energies of the positive modes as required in any given situation to allow the best outcome possible in the circumstances. So it is about developing flexibility, breaking out of old habits of behaviours that don’t always work, and identifying new choices that allow individuals to respond rather than react to situations and people. It is about developing the capacity to change. As one of my clients succinctly commented, ‘I didn’t know I had a choice. Now I do.’ It allows individuals to identify how they can save energy, reduce stress and create a new story – professionally and personally. ‘Clients learn how to expand and enrich what they already do well. This focus is on the positive because research show that this is the best way to fire up energy for change and development.’ (S Temple, www.functionalfluency.com). So TIFF is primarily a developmental tool – an “actometric”, pragmatic and optimistic and firmly grounded in the human capacity to survive and continually find new ways to thrive.


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We use our blog to refect on how Functional Fluency and TIFF is being used, and how it can be developed further, across the broad spectrum of situations where building more effective relationships is valuable.

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