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Interaction Styles / Social Styles
The Key to Relating to People Quickly


Chart-the-Course (Analyticals)

  • Focus on the facts and logic
  • Takes action when the payoff is clear
  • Careful and cautious decision making
  • Quiet, Intense, Focused, Calm
  • Reserved, Private, Direct, Deliberate

In-Charge (Drivers)

  • Focus on results
  • Take charge, mobilize others
  • Quick decisions
  • Likes challenges and competition
  • Energetic, Confident, Composed, In control
  • Commanding, Sociable, Decisive

Behind-the-Scenes (Amiables)

  • Personal relationships come first
  • Cooperation and consensus building
  • Quietly provides support to others
  • Quiet, Reflective, Agreeable, Unassuming
  • Accommodating, Friendly, Patient, Consultative

Get-Things-Going (Expressives)

  • Creates excitement
  • Gets people involved
  • Shares ideas, dreams
  • Motivates and inspires others
  • Energetic, Animated, Expressive, Enthusiastic
  • Engaging, Gregarious, Persuasive, Consensual




(Please note that I have taken the liberty of combining and merging aspects and terminology from both Interaction Styles and Social Styles models.)

Background on Social Styles / Interaction Styles

There are two popular, overlapping, systems for describing how people interact and how you can temporarily adjust your behavior to get along better with others.

Linda Berens Ph.D. developed the "Interaction Styles" model and Wilson Learning developed the "Social Styles" model as described in "The Social Styles Handbook."

Both systems had their foundation in work done by David Merrill and Roger Reid in "Personal Styles & Effective Performance", and Bolton and Bolton, "People Styles at Work."

Both systems are built on roughly the same psychological theories, they just use different terminology.

Linda Berens model is primarily taught to consultants and practitioners who do corporate training and organizational development using personality type and temperament. I had the opportunity to attend Linda's 4 day training certification class in November of 2010 and again in July 2012. It's one of my favorite classes. Linda's classes attract some very interesting and fun people from around the world.

The Social Styles model is taught by Wilson Learning. My first exposure to it was in ~ 1993 when the high tech company I worked for trained over 1000 of us. We had heard about Social Styles from Intel who allegedly had trained their entire management and sales staff.

Why Learn Social Styles / Interaction Styles?

These systems are used to help people develop better interpersonal skills.

What's that mean?

These systems help people to get along better and be more effective when working with others. It does this by making people more aware of themselves, and the affect they have on others, and how other people prefer to be treated.

Thus when you understand why someone is so different, you are better able to work with them, and you don't take their inadvertent insults so personally. Because now you know why they are different and that they are not really trying to upset or insult you. It's just that their style rubs you the wrong way.

A classic example is the sales person who is about to call on a customer who may be a buyer or engineer, or high level manager. It's the sales person's job to persuade these people to like him/her and then to buy.

Before going to the meeting, the sales person would review the "style" of the person he was about to visit. Then, during the visit he would move into the comfort zone of that style.

So if the customer was an "analytical" the sales person would probably skip the small talk and just present data.

If the customer was an "amiable" the sales person would start off with relationship building and ask about the customer's family.

Although this sounds like manipulation it relies on the fact that we all want to be sold to by someone using our own style.

The Social Styles people even provided small business card sized cheat sheets that you could keep in your wallet and pull out whenever you were about to approach a different person.

Was the Social Styles training effective? Yes. I have heard from people who took that training so many years ago say that it was some of the best training the company ever provided. Even some of the most cantankerous, hard to get along with, eccentric individuals said the model helped them understand and get along with others better.

Social Styles Theory

Looking at the chart above, both axis represent behavior that you can observe in a person.

The vertical axis represents a task focus versus a people focus.

In the upper half you have people who are more focused on the task and who prioritize completing the task over people. People in the bottom half tend to prioritize people, friends and relationships over completing tasks.

The horizontal axis represents extraversion versus introversion. People on the left are more quiet and private while people on the right are more talkative.

People on the left get energized by the thoughts and ideas in their minds, while the people on the right get more energized by things outside of their minds in the external world, i.e. people, events, activities.