How to make sense of chaotic relationships

Men fighting

By: Don Tipon       Date: Apr 11, 2020
Reading Time: 16 minutes    Category: ORGANIZING | Tags: MODELS
Table of Contents (or click TOC in the top menu)

Are your relationships chaotic?

Do people sometimes have raging emotions?

Do they do things that make little sense?

But worst of all, are people hurtful or harmful to you?

People often act in inconsistent, unpredictable, and frightening ways.

You probably feel that dealing with chaotic relationships is impossible.

And you are right — if you don't have the proper tools for understanding relationships and figuring out how to handle situations.

What we need are models of social relationships that explain how they work and how to manage them.

This article is an introduction to simple but powerful models of how people interact. These models reveal the laws of human interaction.

This knowledge will improve your management of relationships.

But before I present the models, you must understand the following reasons people act badly.

The reasons people act badly

Ignorance may control your relationships

Subconscious instinct, emotions, habits, and cultural norms often control people's social interactions. That's because they don't have any other choice. They don't have the mental tools for understanding their social situations nor logical methods for composing the best responses.

This ignorance causes confusion. Ignorance and confusion cause failures. Continuous failures cause desperation. Desperation causes emotional upsets and psychological problems. And then people harm others and themselves.

This can cause more social problems, as explained next.

Inconsistent social responses

The above problems and the lack of any intelligent decision-making processes often causes people's social actions to be incoherent and destructive.

Destructive actions confuse and disturb other people, amplifying social problems.

These social problems are difficult to fix for the reasons described below.

Good intentions don't help

It doesn't matter how smart you are, how special your skills are, or how good your intentions are. If you are ignorant about the problem you are facing, you will make mistakes.

Even worse, if you are unaware of your ignorance and think you know what you are doing, you are likely to maximize your efforts, which will maximize your mistakes.

You will do harmful things to other people and yourself.

It's not really your fault, but people will blame you and you might even blame yourself.

The problem isn't bad people. The problem is ignorance.

Now let's see how to handle this ignorance.

The intelligent approach to social relationships

What are knowledge and intelligence?

Intelligence is the ability to pose and solve problems. Knowledge is data learned about past solved problems. Intelligence uses knowledge to pose and solve new problems. This creates a powerful feedback loop. Intelligence and knowledge can work together to grow knowledge into a large database and to make intelligence more powerful.

But when the amount of data grows too large, you can't find the data you need. Then, the organization of the data is just as important as the data.

Organizing data requires grouping data into classes and subclasses. A large knowledge database becomes a very wide and deep classification tree.

A good example is Chemistry. Chemistry has a very wide and deep classification tree of elements and their compounds. Each class also includes many processes for creating useful products from chemicals.

If you want to really understand knowledge and intelligence, you can read the revolutionary article "Why you are making big mistakes and how to fix it," which reveals the many levels of ignorance and how they control our lives more than our intelligence.

So, how much knowledge do you have about social relationships?

How to understand social situations

When you compare Sociology with Chemistry, what is different? Sociology does not have a large and useful classification tree of knowledge.

No wonder people are constantly making social mistakes and harming others and themselves.

Sociology would be more useful if it had a large tree of knowledge similar to Chemistry.

This article defines basic classes of social situations to serve as a foundation for a tree of knowledge.

But I prefer to use the word “model” instead of class to emphasize the fact that a social situation is a purely dynamic sequence of actions. It exists only while those actions are transpiring. This is not like Chemistry, where you work with persistent physical objects.

The only way to understand a social model is to view it as a movie. You take the model description of actions and you imagine the actions as a series of events. When you watch the actions play in your mind like a movie, you will understand the situation.

The social models described below include actions and the effects of those actions. These are tools for thinking logically about your situations. Then you can make conscious and intelligent decisions about interacting with people.

How to use models of social situations

These models are the top classes of the beginning of a knowledge tree about social interactions. Future articles will describe subclasses.

You will probably never run into a person as simple and unchanging as these models.

People who don't use logic to choose their social behavior will act inconsistently.

People who are logically choosing their behavior will constantly switch their behavior to fit the changing situations.

A real person will never act exactly like one of these models all the time.

They will act like several models and change many times a day.

The purpose is not to identify a person as a type, but to associate an action with a type of personality.

The goal is to study and improve behaviors, not to judge people.

The basic models of relationships

The model descriptions below are brief introductions. I will write other articles that provide verbose explanations.

Model of an individual


I define a model of the non-social individual to compare it to social relationships and expose important differences.

An example of an individual would be someone living in a jungle with no help from other people.

He can't jump on a jet, fly to Paris, and sip a glass of wine. Those actions require membership in multiple large social organizations.

This model might seem silly, but it exposes the benefits of social relationships we all take for granted and have become invisible. It also shines a bright spotlight on the reasons you need social relationships.


An individual works hard to take care of himself and achieve his best possible living conditions.

Social actions

Little or no social interactions.

Social influence

Little or no ability to influence others.


Limited to the skills that he can invent and master by himself. He can't get a book to read, go to college, or take an online course.


An individual has a productivity of one person. This productivity is low compared to most social relationships. An individual produces what he consumes and cannot save much as resources for future use.


He has 100% personal freedom, but his low skills, productivity, and lack of resources severely limit his options.


Low health because of low abilities, productivity, and resources. He cannot build structures to protect him from the environment, animals, or antagonistic people. He does not have access to medical knowledge or help.


Low survival potential because of low abilities, productivity, and resources.

Predator-prey model


This model of a predator is an individual whose only social interaction is to steal whatever he wants from other people, which I refer to as prey.

A predator never works in cooperation with other people. Cooperation only occurs in team relationships.

Few people fit this extreme definition, but most people think and act this way when confused, stressed, or suffering from emotional and psychological upsets.


In a predator-prey relationship, the predator is very greedy. The predator tries to take everything from the prey, often destroying the prey. A predator only consumes and never produces. He must take from others to live another day.

Social actions

The predator uses many deceptions to gain some advantage over the prey. Examples are hiding, obscuring, camouflaging, and faking.

He weakens the prey with psychological attacks such as harassing or panicking the prey.

He can use high-level intellectual attacks. For example, pretending to be a good team member. Another would be to use highly technical and false concepts to disturb, distract, confuse, and misdirect.

He will use force and mortal violence to get what he wants.

Social influence

A predator has difficulty influencing the prey. They have opposite purposes. The prey opposes and resists everything the predator wants to do.

The predator can only trick the prey.


The top priority of a predator is developing skills of deception, conflict, and consumption. A predator doesn't develop skills to produce products.


A predator consumes and does not produce. His productivity is zero or maybe -1 if he kills a person who is producing.


A predator has 100% freedom of choice, but he must constantly hunt and fight to survive.

His low skills, productivity, and resources severely limit what he can do.

Group stability

A predator's social interactions are destructive, and relationships often end quickly.

Health and Survival

Bad. Opposing prey and competing predators often injure a predator or just starve him to death.

Master-Slave model


Throughout history, there have been many types of master-slave relationships, all with different characteristics. To make any progress, I must apply a trick frequently used in science. I will define an unrealistically simple model to represent the master-slave class. Then I can make comparisons to other simple relationship models. This will allow me to generate and justify basic laws of social interaction. After I take several victory laps, I will deal with the errors and problems created by my over-simplified models — just like a scientist.


A master tries to maximize his benefits by taking everything he can from his slaves. He treats slaves as domesticated animals. The master is very selfish to the point of being petty.

Social actions

The master uses deception, insults, threats, force, and violence to suppress the slaves, maintain control, and maximize his benefits. Against intelligent slaves, the master must use covert psychological and intellectual attacks to suppress the slaves.

Social influence

A master has poor influence over slaves because his tactics create negative motivations such as uncertainty, confusion, and fear.

The vast difference in living conditions between the master and slaves plus the lack of opportunities to better themselves angers the slaves.

These negative motivators create weak cooperation. They also fester resistance and rebellion.


The master develops skills of deception and suppression, ignoring skills for producing.

He is afraid of losing control of the slaves, so he limits their skills and intelligence.

Both master and slaves have low skills for producing valuable products.


From the previous sections we know this model has destructive social actions, negative motivations, poor cooperation, and low skills.

In addition, the master spends most of his time harassing the slaves and I am sure the slaves waste a lot of time resisting the master's commands.

All these harmful conditions reduce the productivity of each person to less than what a person could produce as an individual.

For making comparisons to other types of relationships, I assume that the average productivity for each person in this group is half of a free individual.

Now, I will use the letter n to represent the quantity of slaves plus one for the master. So if there are nine slaves and one master, the letter n is equal to ten.

Since the productivity of each person is half that of an individual, the total group productivity would be 1/2 x n. For a group with ten members, the productivity would be 1/2 x 10 = 2.5 individuals.

Because they work as a group, there are group efficiencies and sharing. For a complete explanation of why group efficiencies help every member, you can read, "An equation for team productivity." That article explains how each member of a team receives the full benefit of the production of every member of the team.

But for a master-slave group, the efficiencies and sharing are less. So, for the master-slave model I assign the benefit received by each member to be half of the total group production. Therefore, each member receives 1/2 x 1/2 x n = 1/4n. If there are ten members, then the benefit received is 1/4 x 10 = 2.5.

For estimating the total power and wellbeing of the group, we can calculate the total benefits received by all group members. This would be the benefit to each person multiplied by the number of people, or n x 1/4n = 1/4n2. I also assume that any extra benefits that go to the master do not increase the team power and wellbeing. The master probably wastes his extra benefits.

If there are ten members in the group, then the total benefit of the team is 1/4 x 102 = 25.

The 1/2 multiplication factor used above highly depends on the suppressiveness of the master-slave relationship. The more suppressive, the closer the factor is to zero. If the group is less suppressive, then the factor is closer to one. Each real-world group will be different. But for comparing the master-slave model with other social models, I use the neutral factor of 1/2. Also note that if a group's suppressiveness is close to zero, the group would be more like a team than a master-slave relationship.

The productivity of the master-slave group is much greater than the individual and predator-prey models. That is one reason the master-slave relationship has been so popular throughout history. Master-slave groups completely overwhelm individuals and predators.

Another reason for its popularity is people instinctively crave power and they are ignorant about the greater benefits of a team relationship. I will explain the team model after this model.


The dangerous and oppressive social conditions limit the freedom of the master and slaves. The low skills, productivity, and resources also limit what they can do.


The friction and occasional conflict between master and slaves are unhealthy. Low skills, productivity, and resources also reduce their health.

Group stability

The slaves want to destroy their suppression. They are unhappy and want to be free. Master-Slave groups are very unstable.

Group Survival

The potential for survival of group members is poor because of internal group conflicts, low skills, productivity, and low resources.

Team model


There are unlimited variations in teams. But I must start with one simple model as the basic definition of the class of teams. In future articles, I will provide descriptions of subclasses. I hope to build a wide and deep classification tree of team subclasses.

This model describes the basic characteristics of the top-level class for teams.


The team leader and members have the same goal. They all wish to use social actions to maximize benefits for every team member.

Social actions

Team social actions include respect, fairness, honesty, trust, negotiations, agreements, sharing, mutual assistance, and organizing to maximize productivity.

Social influence

Teams create the highest social influence of all relationship types.

Team motivation is high because the team provides enormous personal benefits, security, stability, and exceptional progress in all fields of study and skills. The benefits far exceed personal costs and sacrifices.

Sharing, helping and sacrificing for each other creates strong social bonds.

A team environment creates total commitment to the survival and prosperity of all team members.


The skill level of each team member is far greater than in any other relationship. The efficiency of a team provides each member the time, help, and resources to specialize and excel in his chosen field of study.


Since there are so many variations of teams, there are wide variations in productivity. Once again, I must choose a single team as the top class.

I described the team the top class team in another article in the section, "The basic team strategies," and I will provide a condensed version here. This type of team is very common, and its productivity is in the middle of all team variations.

Imagine that a team of five men go camping on a mountain in Alaska. Once they arrive at a suitable location, each team member works on a different task.

One member collects wood, gets a fire started and tends the fire so it doesn't go out.

Another selects and clears the campsite. Then builds a crude lean-to for all the team members.

One camper goes hunting and brings back wild game for dinner.

Another member fetches roots, berries, other edibles, and water for the entire team.

The camper who is tending the fire also does the cooking.

The last member makes and repairs tools, clothing, and equipment for everyone.

Because each team member enjoys the work of five people, each person receives a total benefit equal to five days of work. So the benefit of each person is five. I also consider this to be the effective productivity where a team amplifies the productivity of each member.

If a team had three, four, five, or any number of members, the benefit would be equal to the number of members. So the benefit of each team member is n where n represents the number of members.

The total group benefit is important because it shows the total power and wellbeing of the group compared to other relationship types. The total benefit is the number of members times the benefits received by each member. The total team benefit is n x n = n2. In this example, that would be 5 x 5 = 25. If there were ten members, it would be 10 x 10 = 100.

Now we can see the immense power of the team relationship.

A team is more than the sum of its members. Because they help each other, each person can be more efficient, create products of greater value, and significantly increase their health and skills so they can accomplish more. This amplifies the productivity of each person. A team is many times more productive than an individual.


The team encourages helpful actions and punishes harmful actions. Members may have to sacrifice to help others in need. Beyond those requirements, the team's wealth, skills, resources, and helpful environment provide the greatest quantity and quality of activities.


Teams have the highest level of health because their living conditions, social stability, mutual assistance, and medical services are better than the other types of relationships.

Group stability

The enormous benefits and social bondings motivate team members to preserve their group. People in predator-prey and master-slave groups will do their best to destroy their relationships.

Group Survival

Team members have the highest probability of survival because of their high skills, productivity, wealth, and commitment.


These models explain the basic relationships and give a strong foundation for building a robust knowledge tree. For more information, you can read the following articles.

Future articles will add more subclasses with detailed definitions and useful social actions.

Choose your social actions wisely

This article has given you simple models for conscious and logical thinking about your relationships.

With these models, you know the characteristics of the basic relationship types.

Now you can analyze social situations and determine which activities are helpful and which are harmful.

Now you can consciously and logically consider which social actions are best for creating the relationship you want.

With this knowledge, you can manage your relationships.

You can choose the relationships that help you achieve your goals.

You know what actions to take to improve your relationships.

And you can create relationships for a better and brighter future.

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