Do Great Relationships Rely on Strength, Warmth or Both?

Updated: Apr 13

by Dawn L. Billings, founder of RelationshipHelp.com

John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut reveal in their book Compelling People, the basic framework we all use to judge ourselves and each other. These character or value judgments revolve around two very important qualities: strength (the root of respect) and warmth (the root of affection).


So do great relationships rely on Strength, the root of respect, or Warmth, the root of affection, or both? The answer is of course, both. However, as logical as the answer seems, it is difficult to hold the same respect, or affection for both of these values at the same time. People usually believe one is definitely better than the other which of course puts them in opposition, when in reality the best communication, relationships and plans rely on a healthy balance of both.


Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests focus on individual strengths and weakness and how to strengthen your centered strengths and how to diminish your extreme weaknesses, but this amazing set of insight tools also give you a chance to learn where you draw your core values from; strength or warmth. What is interesting is that people who value strength are attracted to the warm values and others and visa versa, so we end up in relationship with someone who perceives and values differently than we do. Although we are initially attracted to people whose values are based on the opposite side of the personality values wheel, if we are not careful, we can soon begin to judge our partner as wrong or lacking because their values do line up exactly with ours. This is a real and consistent issue between intimate partnerships.

Strength gets things done. As a personal quality, we respect people who project strength. According to Neffinger and Kohut, strength consists of two basic elements: the ability to affect the world, and the gumption (will) to take action. Ability whether it is your physical strength, learned skills, keen social and communication skills, or hard won wisdom, social scientists refer to all of this together as “competence”. Will equals grit, self-motivation, ambition, perseverance, resilience and stubbornness.

Warmth refers to feeling a sense of belonging or being cared for. It is what people feel when they recognize they share interests and concerns. It is a sense of being on the same team. Warmth encompasses several related concepts: most researchers agree that among these are empathy, familiarity, and love. I add two more because I think that people tie them more closely to warmth than they do strength and those two concepts are pleasure and fun.


As you can see from the above graphic, the qualities of both strength and warmth values are extremely important to the success of any endeavor, especially relationships and communication. In fact, it is easier to remember their importance to each other when we realize they are the ends of a thriving tree. Strength is the roots of a relationship, while warmth is the leaves, flowers and fruit of a relationship. However, what is most important is to remember that the tree cannot survive or thrive if these two ends are pulled apart. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared the thought below in his speech to the 1967 Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

“One of the greatest problems of history is that the concepts of love and power

have usually been contrasted as opposites. . .

What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and the love without power is sentimental and anemic.”


Relationship and personality expert Dawn Billings is the author and architect of the Primary Colors Relationship Personality Tests and founder of RelationshipHelp.com, web portal that provides relationship Help resources. Dawn is the executive director of the luxury RelationshipHelpResort.com in Arizona where she hosts couples therapy intensives.