Every one of us has our own unique, interpersonal style. In essence, we all have a default, natural behavior that we are most comfortable with. This behavior is called your Social Style. Social Styles explain our communication preferences, how we deal with conflict, and how we interact with others. By understanding your own style and others’ you can learn to become more versatile therefore enhancing work relationships, resolving conflicts more effectively, and creating effective change. You’ll learn your Social Style and how to adjust to better work with colleagues, partner, and friends.

What You’ll Learn

  • Your own personal Social Style
  • Three ways to increase your versatility in working with others
  • Hear an example from Amy’s life where she adjusted her style with great success


The Weekly Challenge

Determine your own Social Style. Figure out one way you can adjust your approach to better match someone else’s style. What happened? How did it go?


Feel like reading instead of listening? Download the PDF Transcript or read it below. Enjoy!

Transcript for Episode #054: Understanding Social Styles

Amy Climer: Welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast Episode 54. Today’s episode is about understanding your communication style, otherwise known as your Social Style. This episode is dedicated to the Orangutan Species Survival Plan Organization. I was presenting at their conference last week. I was doing a keynote for them called Exploring Social Styles in Humans, and during the keynote I told them that they could go to my podcast and listen to an episode on Social Styles if they wanted to share it with their colleagues or they wanted a review of what we talked about during the workshop. And then I got home and I realized I do not have an episode on Social Styles. So for those of you that went to the podcast and were searching for Social Styles, I am so sorry but here is an episode just for you. This episode explains Social Styles and how our style has a big impact on what we do and how we can use that to our advantage. I’ll also talk about understanding other Social Styles, how each styles works and then how we can better communicate based on our style and on other’s style.

I have a special freebie for all of you. If you go to www.climerconsulting.com/054 — that is the page for the shownotes — if you go there you will find a free download of slides that will accompany this episode. I highly recommend you go and download the slides because there is one portion where I am going to ask you some questions and I want you to move into a certain quadrant. And if you have the slides in front of you it will be a little bit easier because of that visual aspect. So take a moment, go to www.climerconsulting.com/054, because this is Episode 54, and download those slides.

Let’s talk about Social Styles. Social Styles is your communication style. This research is from Wilson Learning and they have given this assessment to six million people around the world in different cultures and different countries. Wow! Six million people, that is very robust. They have a lot of data. What they have found is that as humans, we tend to fall into one of four quadrants in how we communicate with each other. Of course, if you are putting six million people into four different boxes that is a huge oversimplification. So keep that in mind as you are listening to this. It is a generalization, yet it is a way for us to understand ourselves.

Communication is probably one of the most complex things that we do as humans. And if anyone understands that, it is the orangutan zookeepers and researchers whom I was hanging out with last week. Communication is one of those big pieces that separate humans from other primates. Of course they know a lot more about that than I do, but I imagine if you are working with those animals on a daily basis, you recognize and you see these differences in communication and how it is so complex and so complicated. And because it is so complex, it helps if we can break it down and simplify it and understand it a little bit better. So that is the purpose of this podcast and that is the purpose of the Social Styles research.

What is your Own Personal Social Style? [04:27]

I think when we can understand our own communication style, it helps us communicate better and that is important in any situation where you are interacting with other human beings, which for most of us happens on a regular basis, if not daily, at least weekly. Unless you happen to live on a deserted island, in which case you are probably not listening to this podcast anyway, so in essence it is important for all of us.

I am going to help you figure out which of the four quadrants you fall into. If you Google Social Styles, and I will put a link to their website in the shownotes, you can access a more robust way to assess your style. A much more accurate way than what we are going to do. But what I am going to do is ask you some questions and then you are going to answer those questions and you will get a pretty good sense by the end of which style you are. If you have the slides, you are going to go to the slide with the grid on it. You are going to see a quadrant with four squares. If you do not have access to the slides, I want you to get out a piece of paper and something to write with, and I want you to draw a vertical line in the middle of the page. So now your page is divided in half. That is all I want you to do at this point.

On the left hand side of the page, in the middle of the page, just write on the edge of the paper the word “Ask.” And then on the right side, you are going to write the word “Tell”. I am going to make some statements and you are going to be either on the ask-directed side or the tell-directed side. And this is the Assertiveness Continuum. On the Assertiveness Continuum, you are more ask-directed if you tend to speak deliberately, often pausing, you seldom interrupt others, you seldom use your voice for emphasis, you make more conditional statements and when you are talking with someone, you tend to lean back, physically lean away. That is ask-directed. Tell-directed is you speak quickly, often firmly, you often interrupt others, you often use your voice for emphasis and you make more declarative statements and you tend to lean forward when you are talking with others.

Let me just clarify a couple of those, the last point about leaning forward or leaning back. Think about if you are sitting across the table at a coffee shop with somebody. How are you sitting? Or maybe you are sitting at a conference room at work. Are you leaning forward or you tend to lean back when you are communicating? Before that I mentioned whether you make conditional statements or declarative statements. An example of a declarative statement is, “I have an idea, I know what we should do.” And it is as if you are just putting it out there. This is a declaration. A conditional statement would be something like, “So I have been thinking about something and I had an idea I wanted to propose. I am not sure if it is going to be the best one but here is what I think.” You tend to preface things a little bit more. You might say, “This might work if…” and you are not necessarily hesitant but you are making some conditions, whereas declarative you say, “Yup, here is how it is.” Declarative means you are tell-directed, and if you are making more conditional statements you are ask-directed.

At this point, you should be on one side of the page or the other. The right side is tell-directed. The left side is ask-directed. Now what you are going to do is take that same piece of paper and I want you to draw a line horizontally in the middle of the page intersecting the other line. On the top of the page, I want you to write the word “Task” and on the bottom of the page I want you to write the word “People.” You are going to move to the top or the bottom of the page based on these statements. You tend to be more task-oriented if you talk more about tasks and facts. You use minimal body language. You show a narrow range of personal feelings to others. It does not mean you have a more narrow range of feelings, it just means you show a more narrow range, and you use limited facial expressions. So that is task-oriented. And by the way, this is the Responsiveness Continuum.

On the bottom is people-oriented. You are people-oriented if you talk more about people and relationships, you use broad expansive body language, you show a broad range of personal feelings to others, and you use varied and open facial expressions. Move to whichever, top or bottom of the page, whether you are task-oriented on the top or people-oriented on the bottom. You are also going to keep yourself on the other half that you are already on. At this point, you should be in one of four quadrants. I am hoping this is making sense in a podcast.

The Social Styles Quadrants

Driver Quadrant [10:16]

Let’s talk about the four quadrants. I am going to start with the upper right quadrant. This is if you are task-oriented and tell-directed. You are a Driver. Drivers are inspired by competition, they are highly achievement-oriented, they take initiative, they are strong-willed, they like control and they are action-oriented. This is the group that says, “Let’s go, let’s get started, let’s get things done!” I am listing these things to you and if you are in this quadrant, you might be thinking, “Well, those all apply to me, but I am not that competitive,” or maybe there is one thing in the list that does not quite fit, and that is okay. That is part of what happens when you generalize six million people into four quadrants. Of course, there are going to be some things that are not you exactly. The idea here is to take which ones are most like you and whether or not you feel, “Yeah, actually that is pretty accurate. That feels about like me.” So that is the Driver quadrant.

Expressive Quadrant [11:21]

That was upper right, now we are going to lower right, which is the Expressive quadrant. These are people who are tell-directed and people-oriented. If you are an Expressive, you tend to be optimistic, enthusiastic, you want the big picture, you are spontaneous, you prefer to work with others, you enjoy attention, and you tend to motivate and inspire others. So that is the Expressive category.

When I do this in person with groups, we do this physically in the room and everybody is in one of four quadrants in the room and then I have the groups get together and talk amongst themselves. The Expressives group is the group that is usually the loudest, they are laughing, and they are having fun. Not that the other groups are not having fun, but the expressives are more expressive in how they are interacting. I always think it is kind of funny to look around and  see how groups are clumping together and interacting as their styles are coming out. So that is the Expressive corner.

Amiable Quadrant [12:31]

Moving across the bottom, we are now at the lower left-hand quadrant. This is the Amiable corner. The Amiables are ask-directed and people-oriented. And if you are Amiable, you are easy-going and flexible, you have a strong need to relate to others, you like routine and stability, you are modest, dependable and you tend to avoid conflict. That is the Amiable corner.

Analyzer Quadrant [13:05]

And then the upper left-hand corner, you are the Analyzers. You are task-oriented and ask-directed. Analyzers tend to be methodical and cautious, focus on facts and data, they are inventive, more formal and discrete, they strive for precision, they are orderly and think logically and they like to work alone. Those are the Analyzers.

At this point you are in one of four quadrants. One really good way to learn more about your quadrant and the other quadrants is to get the book The Social Styles Handbook by Wilson Learning. There is a ton of information in that book and they go in depth about each of the four quadrants. They also talk in more detail about how to work with the other quadrants. It is interesting. I think it is a fascinating book. And again, you all know if you are a regular listener, I value research because I think there is some bad stuff out there and so that is one thing I do like about this.

If when I was explaining the quadrants or when you were moving into one of the four quadrants you may have been thinking, “Well, there is more than one quadrant that I feel is like me. I could be in two of these quadrants or three or maybe even all four,” and my first reaction will be, “Yes that is good.” What is ideal is that you are able to move amongst the four quadrants and you can adjust your own style so that you are able to work with people in all four quadrants, which may mean communicating in a way or acting in a way that is more like that quadrant.

An Example from Amy’s Life Where She Adjusted her Style with great Success [15:02]

Let me give you an example. A number of years ago, I was working at a university and I worked in a very small department, there were only four of us in the department and it was a fairly new program. Part of being a new program is we were trying to get the word out about who we are and generate buzz and excitement.I  tend to be someone who has lots of ideas. If you have listened to the FourSight Episode 08, I am an ideator. That is one of my preferences in the FourSight profile. I love coming up with ideas.

So I always had ideas for how we could grow the program, how we can improve it, so I would often go to my boss and I would tell him, “Hey, listen to this new idea I have. What do you think?” And he would often say “no.” This went on for several months, and I was getting a little bit frustrated and I was starting to wonder like what was going on? Why do I keep getting a “no?” Because some of these ideas were free and I was willing to do the work. So it was not necessarily like I was asking for other people to do the work, but hey I am willing to it, can I do this? And I he would say “no.”

So then a few months into my job, we actually had a consultant, somebody else from another part of the campus come in and they did something like Social Styles with our office. And what I learned is that he and I were on complete opposite corners of the Social Styles quadrants, which meant we are completely opposite from each other. I tend to be more of an Expressive and he was more of an Analyzer. I think one of the key things about understanding this is that it is all about being able to be versatile.

After we had this assessment and I understood more about it, I decided okay, I am going to adjust my approach and see what impact that has. I decided to do a little experiment. So when I had an idea, which was probably the next week, I decided I was not going to go throw the idea out to him, instead I wrote up just a little one-page document and I had at the top: here is the idea, here are some pros and cons of the idea, here is what it would take to make this idea happen, a little budget of how much it would cost. I  laid all this out, just one page, really simple because it was only an idea. It was not a fully developed project or a plan, just one page. And I gave it to him and I said, “I was thinking about an idea, I wanted to present this to you. Take your time, look it over and when you get a chance, let me know what you think.” And he said, “Okay, sure.” The next day, he comes to me and he says, “Amy, this looks great. Let’s do it.” I was thinking what? Really? Wow!

Ways to Increase your Versatility in Working with Others [18:01]

Change your Approach [18:01]

All it took was for me to change how I approached him and how I presented the idea, and that is how I got to the “yes.” And ever since then, I have tried as best as I can to think about how do I present this to that person, whoever that person is. Of course we do not always know what other people’s Social Styles are, I mean it is not like we wear this on a necklace around our necks or get to ask people as soon as you meet them, because a lot of people do not even know this term Social Styles and that would become an awkward introductory question. But what is important is understanding that not everyone thinks the way you think and not everyone communicates the way you do and not everyone wants to receive information the way you want to receive it. You can start being more versatile and you can start to adjust your approach.

The thing is, it might be a bit uncomfortable at first and that is one of the keys to this. You have to be prepared to act in a way that might be a bit uncomfortable. Honestly, it was a bit painful for me to write that up because it just felt so time-consuming. It only probably took 15 minutes, but I just wanted to go over there and throw the idea out and say, “Hey, let’s chat about it and let’s talk about it.” But I was so much more successful when I paused and took 15 minutes to adjust and write out a short little proposal and present it to him in that way. And as an Analyzer, he was able to digest the information, get all the data — Analyzers like data — get all the information, had time to digest it and think about it. They also tend to like to work alone and so that gave him an opportunity to think about it quietly before having to respond. When I earlier had put him in a position where he had to respond right away, his default was just “no.” Even though it may have been a good idea and he may have appreciated it, that was just the default. So be prepared to act in ways that might feel uncomfortable at first. But sometimes what happens is those new approaches become very comfortable and I would say I often will use this approach in various situations and decide to write this up and then present it to them.

Adapt Your Behavior [20:26]

The second thing I want to say is you cannot change your style, but you can adapt your behavior. That example I just shared with you, great example for that. Our style may be something that is more engrained in us, that has developed over the years and it is not something we can necessarily change; it is our default. But you can adapt your behavior and I do strongly believe we have control over our behavior. It is just a matter of learning how to control it. And that is really a sign of emotional intelligence, learning how to see yourself and then adapt to your behavior and change it in different situations.

Develop Teams with Diverse Styles  [21:10]

The third thing I want to say is that when you are working together in a team is that diversity in a team is very enriching but it also requires understanding. What is ideal, I think, is to have team members that are in each of the four quadrants. I mentioned earlier when I do this in person, all the Expressives get together and all the Drivers get together and so forth. The Expressives are having a ton of fun with each other and the Expressives tend to really enjoy socializing with each other. Not that they do not enjoy socializing with others. They like being together, but they are probably not the most productive together.

You get a group of Expressive together and there are going to be side comments about their family vacations and laughing about various tangents. They can work together, they can work together well, but what can even be more powerful is to have Drivers, Expressives, Analyzers and Amiables all together in the same team. And you can probably imagine when that happens, when you have them all together, you can also get a bit of head butting, if you will, and people might not understand each other. There is more opportunity for conflict based on personality, but when you can understand yourself and each other and understand where people might be coming from because of their Social Style, it can be really rich. That diversity can bring a greater product and greater results.

Look for Signals that may Indicate People’s Social Styles [22:46]

The fourth thing I want to point out is when you are working with other people, look for signals that might indicate what style they have. Think about the example I shared about presenting ideas to my boss, when I continued getting so many no’s. I thought something was going on. I guess technically something was going on – that our communication styles were clashing. But I thought it might be something so much more. If you are in a situation where you keep getting the same reaction and it is not the reaction you want, think about if it could it be based on your communication styles, based on your Social Styles and perhaps try something different. Try to approach them and think, what would a Driver want, what would an Analyzer want, what would an Amiable want, what would an Expressive want, and think through that and then approach it that way, try something different. Try to experiment a little bit, which of course experiments can be a bit risky because you do not know what is going to happen. And that is part of learning, I think.

There are three essential questions that you can ask yourself as you are moving forward and are adjusting how you might communicate with others. The first is, what is my Social Style? Hopefully at this point you know what your style is and like I said, you can get a more robust assessment if you like, and I will put a link to that in the shownotes. The second question is, what are the Social Styles of people in my life? And again, trying to think about getting some clues and looking at what might their Social Style be.

In my opinion, it is not important that you have pinpointed it exactly. I mean, that is great if you can or if you can have them listen to this podcast or read the book and get that exact diagnosis, but I think what is important is to figure out do they tend to be more task-oriented or people-oriented? Are they more tell-directed or ask-directed? If you tend to be more of a people-oriented person, where you are either an Expressive or an Amiable, you probably really like to talk through things and you want to figure things out together. Whereas if somebody is in the task-oriented path, they may like to talk things out, it does not mean they do not, but they also want to figure out the data.

You might think about it as how you might buy a new car. Let’s say you need a new car, and so are you somebody that talks to your friends and figures out what car do you have. Do you like your car, what do you think, where did you buy your car, what dealer did you go to? You start asking people about their experiences. Whereas if you tend to be more task-oriented, you might go online and start looking at some of the statistics from different car companies. You might be looking at some of safety records or awards that they won or what their performance records are or how expensive are they to repair. You also might be looking at ratings, which of course are from people but is in a data format. So those are people who tend to be more task-oriented.

If you are someone who is people-oriented and you are approaching someone who is task-oriented with a problem or a solution that you want to present, ask yourself, “How can I bring in some data for them that is going to help them understand this better?” Conversely, if you are task-oriented and you are approaching someone who is people-oriented, you may want to show some information that is more relational. So instead of statistics, or maybe I should say in addition to statistics, you might share some stories. You might give them an opportunity to just talk it through with you. That is one example of how you might change your approach based on the general half they are in. So again, in that example, you did not have to know exactly what quadrant they were, but you just were getting a sense of if they are task-oriented or people-oriented. That is an example where just knowing the other person’s style could be really helpful.

I have alluded to this already, but the third essential question is, what adjustments can I make in my behavior to help things go better with other people? It is going to vary from person to person. There are definitely people in my life I communicate differently with, different individuals just because of their personalities. I think that is really normal and healthy and appropriate and I think it leads to a lot of success in both friendships and family and, of course, work and professional life. So those are some things to think about.

I am going to leave you with this last thought. Think about the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule says something like this: do unto others as you would like done unto yourself. Or treat others the way you would want to be treated. Actually, that is a pretty good mantra to live by, but I would like to present the Platinum Rule. The Platinum Rule is: treat others the way they want to be treated. That is taking it a step further, and that is what Social Styles can give you. I hope you will go to the shownotes, download the free slides, use those, follow along, share this with your team, share this with the people you work with. This is a great brown bag lunch-and-learn. Play this podcast, show the slides, figure out as a group which of the four quadrants we are. There are positives and challenges in each of the four quadrants and we need them all.

The Weekly Challenge [28:38]

Your weekly challenge is to figure out your quadrant, which is your Social Style, and to start thinking about and start acting on how you might adjust your style to better work with the people you interact with. Good luck with it. Email me if you have any questions. For those of you who are new to The Deliberate Creative Podcast, welcome. And if you enjoyed this episode, I would love for you to go leave a review on iTunes. If you go to iTunes you can leave a review, it takes less than five minutes. You can give me a star rating, one through five, write a few comments, it helps the podcast. It is great feedback for me too, and I love reading your reviews. And if you write a review, I will share it on the air. So I would love to hear from you.

If you are not following me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, please do so. Those links are all in the shownotes. I would love to hear from you all. Thank you for listening to The Deliberate Creative Podcast. On this show it is all about helping teams be more innovative. Have a wonderful week you all. See you next time. Bye.

Note: The links on this page may be affiliate links. That means I get a small commission of your sale, at no cost to you. However, I only share links to products that I or my guests believe in. Enjoy them! 

Understanding Social Styles Slides

Subscribe to download the slides for Understanding Social Styles. You will also receive free monthly articles about creativity and teams, weekly podcast and blog posts, and occasional exclusive offerings.

We hate spam too. Your info will never be shared with anyone. Powered by ConvertKit