Social Style


Today we are going to Muse about Social Style and what it means.  If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.

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Social Style

What do you do when you  find yourself just not clicking with someone?  Or feeling uncomfortable with them?  Years ago I was in sales and we were given training on social styles.  The idea was that if we understood the basic social style of an individual we could modify our behavior to more successfully interact with the person.

I thought I would share that with you today.  I am certain many people will find it simplistic but over the years I have found it helpful.

The social style model is built around four different types of behavior.  We all know people who keep everything close to the vest.  They are formal and show very little of a personal nature about themselves.  And then there are people who are just the opposite; they are very outgoing and wear their whole life on their sleeve.

In the model, that is one facit of social style, the degree to which a person is out going, reserved verses emotional.



Another facet is the degree to which a person is telling verses asking.



Some people are always teaching, telling, directing, etc.  I tend to behave that way.  Others are always asking and seeking more information.

The social style model uses a chart like this below to illustrate the differing  styles.  The vertical dimension is the reserved verses outgoing  dimension with the top being  controlled behavior and the bottom being  expressive behavior.  The horizontal axis represents asking verses telling behavior, with telling on the right and asking on the left.  The result is a grid divided into four quadrants.  Roughly one fourth of the people are in each quadrant.

social styles quadrants

social styles quadrants

The upper right square represents people who do not emote much, pretty close to the vest, and who tend to be telling by nature.  They are often seen as formal and impersonal.  The model calls them Drivers.

The upper left quadrant represents people who also do not emote much, are pretty close to the vest but they tend to be asking, wanting more information.  They too are often seen as formal, the stereotype being an accountant. They are called Analyticals.

The lower left quadrant represents people who tend to be asking, wanting more information but who also tend to be outgoing and emotional.  They are seen as warm and people oriented but often indecisive. They are called Amiables.

The lower right quadrant represents outgoing, expressive people who tend to be telling.  They are often seen as enthusiastic cheerleaders.  They are called Expressives.

So we end up with a matrix with four social styles:  Drivers, Analyticals, Amiables and Expressives.  None is better than the other, but they do have differing basic needs.



The Driver wants to be in control, to be the decision maker.  You give the Driver the basic facts and several options and that is it.  I tend to be seen by people as a driver.  And I can tell you there have been many times I have told someone  “Cut to the chase!  Whats the bottom line?”  And I have made a decision. Not always the right decision, but I decided.  I was in control.

The Analytical wants to be certain he is correct;  he wants to avoid a mistake.  That is why he asks for more and more detail.  It often takes the Analytical a long time to make a decision.

The Amiable wants to be liked.  It is difficult for the Amiable to make a decision, especially when it may affect several people.  Some of the people affected may not like the decision, may not like the Amiable, so it is tough to decide.  If the Amiable makes a decision, there is a good chance he or she  will change his or her mind if someone encourages them to do so.

The Expressive wants to be recognized.  When you go into their office or home there are photos and trophies prominently displayed.  They often spend a good deal of time telling you about themselves.  They are outgoing and often loud.   Does Donald Trump come to mind?

So what is the point of all this?  The point is that the more similar the social styles of two people, the easier it is for them to relate, to be comfortable with each other.  And, conversely, the more dissimilar their social styles, the more uncomfortable they will be with each other.  If you can analyze the basic social style of a person, you can change your behavior to put the other party at ease.

For example, if I, a Driver,  am dealing with an Analytical, even though I would like to cut to the chase, I will try to offer all the data and information needed to assure the Analytical he or she is making the correct decision.  I may think it is overkill, the choice is obvious, etc, but I know that is what is needed for the Analytical to feel comfortable.

On the other hand,  if I am dealing with an Expressive I am going to spend time recognizing the person, discussing whatever they are doing; noting their accomplishments or contributions to the task at hand.  I will likely provide less data and support material than I would provide the Analytical.  They likely do not need the amount of detail and support the Analytical would want.  The Expressive needs to be recognized.

If I am dealing with another Driver, I will provide an overview of the issue with the most pertinent information.  And I will suggest two or three possible courses of action and let the person decide.  I likely will not spend much time in chit chat.

In these situations the parties have at least one style dimension in common.   The Analytical and the Driver both tend to be unemotional or formal.  The Driver  and the Expressive both tend to be telling.  And a Driver dealing with a Driver has both dimensions in common.

But the Driver and the Amiable are very different.  The first is telling; the second is asking.  The first is unemotional and formal;  the second is emotional and outgoing.  It is hard for people who have such differing styles to feel comfortable together.  Drivers and Amiables are not a good match.  Neither are Analyticals and Expressives .

In the circumstance where these very different styles are interacting, it is likely there will be tension and discomfort.  In order to put the other party at ease the participants need to try to be more like the other person.  The Driver dealing with an Amiable probably needs to chit chat more, to be more outgoing and less telling.  The Amiable dealing with the Driver probably needs to be more to the point, less exuberant and offering choices.

The social style model is helpful  if you take a moment to try to decide  the dominant social style of the person with whom you are dealing and to use the information to change your interaction to more completely meet the person’s needs.

social styles

social styles

When you meet a person, ask yourself,  “Are they guarded in their speech; do they use gestures; do they talk about themselves; do they ask you questions; do they interrupt you; do they control the conversation; do they ask about your family or where you grew up?”

All of these are behaviors which will help you understand their basic social style and, therefore, what they need in order to feel comfortable.

More to come

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Conversation in the Afternoon

Conversation in the Afternoon


About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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