My sister loves to talk. It drives me crazy! For example: we’re planning a family event and we need to make a decision. But she also needs to tell me about how everyone’s doing, all the steps that have led up to this moment, how she’s feeling about the decision, etc, etc, etc. I just want to make a quick decision and move on!
It’s a clash of social styles that in the past has really damaged our relationship. I’d try to bulldoze to a decision, and she’d get upset that I wasn’t listening.
Now I use the 4 social styles model to help me see what’s going on and adjust accordingly. It’s a small adjustment that only requires a little patience, but it has led to a much-improved relationship.
You can use the 4 social styles model too, to boost your communications effectiveness and build stronger personal and working relationships with the people who matter most in your life.
Introducing the 4 social styles model
There are many different models that help us understand our natural communications preferences. Most of them come with some form of self-assessment questionnaire (some are free, some are paid!).
The 4 social styles model is one of the best, because it is easy to understand and yet provides useful insights. This combination makes it a powerful asset.
Here’s what the model looks like, with the 4 social styles:
We all have natural preferences with regards to our social style. Take a look at the model, the axes and the descriptors in each box. On the vertical axis, there is task focused at the top, and people focused at the bottom. On the horizontal axis there is ‘asks’ on the left and ‘tells’ on the right.
This creates the matrix of the 4 social styles, each with a descriptive label: Analytic, Driver, Expressive and Amiable.
Which style describes my sister? If you chose Expressive or Amiable you’d be on the right track. She’s very people oriented but also very happy to spend her time telling me what’s going on, and what she feels is the right answer.
Which style describes me? I’m much more of a Driver (with a little Analytic thrown in!). I’m quite logical in my thinking, but I want to make a quick decision and move on.
This raises an important point: we’re all a mix of all 4 styles, we just have natural preferences with regards to how we communicate.
Finally, it’s important to note that there are no better or worst styles. All the 4 styles are equally valuable, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ styles.
The benefits of mastering social styles
There are many benefits to mastering social styles. I’ve distilled them down into 3 points:
1. Improved relationships
Just as I improved my relationship with my sister, you can improve your relationships with those that are close to you. By adjusting your social style to better meet the needs of the person that you’re communicating with, you build connections more effectively. Difficult conversations become easier.
2. Competitive advantage at work
Quite often I get asked: “Why should it be me that adapts?”. The simple answer is: “Adapting your social style, consistently and effectively, will give you a competitive advantage”.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting you change in any fundamental way. Your values, beliefs, opinions and needs all remain the same. However, with a little effort, you can change your style of communication to achieve your goals more effectively.
Adjusting your style will help you work more effectively with the people around you. By meeting their communication needs, they’ll be more ready to work with you, more engaged, more motivated to delivery for you.
3. Tapping into the strengths of other social styles
Also, as you flex your style, you’ll see things from other people’s perspectives. My natural Driver style has a lot of benefits, but it has limitations too. For example, sometimes I’m too quick to jump to a decision without analyzing the available data.
I can now make better decisions by pausing, recognizing the strengths of the Analytic style, and doing a little more work with the data before I leap forward.
Understanding the 4 social styles in more detail
The ‘Driver’ social style
The Driver social style is more task-oriented, and more ‘tell’ oriented. Drivers are:
- Fast-paced. They’ll make quick decisions, speak quickly, walk quickly and they’ll expect deliverables “yesterday”.
- Action-oriented. A “better to do something rather than nothing” orientation. They won’t always get it right, but that’s not their goal, a good hit-rate is enough.
- Decisive, but willing to shift quickly. A Driver has strong opinions, but if they see that their approach is not working, they’re willing to adapt quickly (which can surprise and alarm other styles!).
- Highly independent. They want to be in control, and they’re focused on the bottom line. This can back-fire if they don’t consider the needs of other people that they depend on.
The ‘Analytic’ social style
The Analytic social style is equally task-oriented, and more ‘ask’ oriented. Analytics are:
- Highly focused. They set high standards (for themselves and others), the are detail oriented and expect to delivery quality work.
- Data oriented. They want to make decisions based on data, the more the better.
- Systematic and well organized. They like to take a structured approach and methodical approach.
- Introverts. They are quiet and private by nature, preferring to work alone or in small groups. Their quiet style may make them seem reserved.
The ‘Amiable’ social style
The Amiable social style is people-oriented, and ‘ask’ oriented. Amiables are:
- Warm, friendly, and easy-going. They are sensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions.
- Team-players. They are generous with their time and want to hear from others. They value making decisions by consensus.
- Relationship-focused. This is a strength but can also lead to an unwillingness to confront performance issues.
- Risk-averse. They work best in a stable environment and will seek to reduce risk in decision-making.
The ‘Expressive’ social style
The Expressive social style is people-oriented, and more ‘tell’ oriented. Analytics are:
- ‘Big ideas’ people. Expressives like bold ideas, big statements, eye-catching projects.
- Impulsive. They go with their gut on what’s right. As a result, they make more mistakes than most, but view this as part of getting things done. They are easily bored too, and don’t do details.
- Full of energy. They talk first, think later and are bristling with energy and enthusiasm. They’re always ready to embrace the next big thing. They share their emotions openly.
- Energized by connections. They’ll pick up the phone rather than send an email, and they’d much rather meet face-to-face and talk.
Recognize other social styles and adapt to boost your communications effectiveness
As I mentioned earlier, one of the great benefits of the 4 social styles model is that it’s easy to understand and provides useful insights.
Use your judgement to recognize the characteristics and quadrants for the people you work with most closely. If you’d like to learn more take a look at this TRACOM resource.
Strategies for working with a Driver
- Focus on results, the bottom line
- Keep meetings short, hit the key points quickly
- Talk about what’s in it for them and the business
Strategies for working with an Analytic
- Make sure your arguments are supported by data
- Take them through the rationale, step-by-step
- Give them time to think and assess for themselves
Strategies for working with an Amiable
- Take the time to explain the impact on everyone involved
- Build a consensus on the topic
- Work hard to minimize the perceived risk
Strategies for working with an Expressive
- Go large, pitch the big idea
- Don’t focus on details
- Talk with enthusiasm and energy
Learn to adjust your social style and you’ll get more work done, with less effort!
I’m at my best when helping people to learn, grow and succeed. Facilitating a training program, coaching a colleague, or sharing advice with my kids. I’m also an introvert by nature, and love to read, reflect and write. Hence this blog! Follow me on LinkedIn.