What is Your Dominant Social Style? And, How does It Affect Your Relationships?

Each of us exhibits a pattern of behavior that can be identified and responded to. Understanding this, you can – with a little effort – increase your chances of successful communication and interaction in any relationship condition. The name given to your observable pattern(s) of behavior – the ‘public’ you – is your dominant ‘social’ style.

Your social style is strongly influenced by two very important dimensions of human behavior: assertiveness (telling, asking) and responsiveness (reacting, controlling, expressing, displaying). How these two dimensions are paired (more assertive/less expressive, less assertive/less expressive, more assertive/more expressive, less expressive/more assertive) determine which social style you tend to exhibit.

Understanding that you tend to – but not absolutely – fall into a particular social style, it is then important to accept that you should control your behaviors instead of trying to control or modify the behavior of others. Make it a habit to be proactive instead of reactive. Reactive behavior can lead to defensiveness and can allow a simple phrase or a missed gesture to negate the best of rapport or spontaneity. Proactive behavior helps you to remain in control of what you say and of what you do.

Recognizing your dominant social style helps you to take more responsibility in your relationships and helps you to avoid misunderstanding, discomfort, and conflict. The four styles listed on the next page – as identified by David W. Merrill and Roger H. Reid in ‘Personal styles & effective performance’, and by Gary Smalley in ‘Hidden Keys to loving relationships’ – will help you to determine your style and that of your relationship partners.

It should be noted that one style is not better than another. Success in relationships depends greatly on your ability to be cognizant of your own style and to be versatile enough to establish rapport with someone of a differing style. “Which is your dominant style? ”

Amiable / Golden retriever (Less assertive/more responsive)
Strengths: supportive, respectful, willing, dependable, agreeable, loyal
Weaknesses: conforming, unsure, pliable, dependent, awkward
Amiables tend to ‘ask’ and to ‘show’ their emotions.

Expressive / Otter (More responsive/more assertive)
Strengths: ambitious, stimulating, enthusiastic, friendly
Weaknesses: manipulative, undisciplined, reacting, egotistical
Expressives tend to ‘tell’ and to ‘show’ their emotions.

Driver / Lion (More assertive/less responsive)
Strengths: strong-willed, independent, practical, decisive, efficient
Weaknesses: pushy, severe, tough, dominating, harsh
Drivers tend to ‘tell’ and to ‘control’ their emotions.

Analytical / Beaver (less assertive/less responsive)
Strengths: industrious, persistent, serious, exacting, orderly
Weaknesses: critical, indecisive, stuffy, picky, moralistic
Analyticals tend to ‘ask’ and to ‘control’ their emotions.

Recognizing the four social styles.

Amiables or Golden Retrievers: Relationship oriented
Amiables tend to place a high priority on friendships, close relationships, approval, and cooperative behavior. They often lend joy, warmth, and spontaneity to social situations. They tend to enjoy traditions and sentimentality. They are keen in spotting what they believe to be personal motives in relationships. Amiables will use understanding and mutual respect to achieve cooperative goals whenever possible versus power. A focus on the present is normal as is a tendency to move at a slower pace due to their social nature. Amiables are less inclined to take risks and tend to stick with the comfortable and the known. They are trusting and expect you to keep your promises. Amiables are more comfortable asking for permission than for forgiveness. In a word, they are ‘agreeable’.

Expressives or Otters: Intuition oriented
Expressives are typically communicative, animated, warm, approachable, and competitive. They tend to involve others in their thoughts and feelings and desire acceptance. They can sometimes conscript friends into the roles of followers and personal supporters of their dreams. Expressives consider power and politics important since they seek to gain personal recognition. Their relationships can too often seem shallow and short-lived. Expressives spend most of their time moving towards some dream of the future. They can act quickly but are usually undisciplined in their use of time. They are willing to take risks based solely on an opinion. Expressives are visionaries and tend to be highly imaginative and creative. They are more comfortable asking for forgiveness than for permission. In a word, expressives are ‘stimulating’.

Drivers or Lions: Action oriented
Drivers tend to give the overall impression that they know what they want, where they are going, and how to get there quickly. “Let’s get it done” is typically their motto. Drivers tend to be more focused on results than on pleasing others. They can seem uncommunicative, independent, competitive, and cool in their interactions with others. They are inclined to take the initiative and don’t always see the need to explain their motives. Drivers tend to be focused on the tasks at hand, are risk takers, and prefer to work autonomously. They are more comfortable asking for forgiveness than for permission. In a word, drivers are ‘efficient ‘.

Analyticals or Beavers: Thinking oriented
Analyticals tend to live their lives according to facts, principles, and logic. They tend to be cautious about extending friendship or showing personal warmth. They take their relationships seriously even if it is not immediately evident. A ‘show me’ posture is often taken with change and leadership. Trust must be earned. Analyticals use their time in a deliberate and disciplined manner. They prefer facts to flashiness and tend to avoid unnecessary risks. Analyticals are more comfortable asking for permission than for forgiveness. In a word, they are ‘accurate’.

These four styles can be used to characterize the observable behavior of most human beings; and, while at times people will combine the behaviors of several of the styles, an individual’s basic social style represents his or her system for coping with relationships encountered in the course of a normal day.

What message(s) is your social style sending out?

After identifying your dominant social style, you can begin to understand what kinds of messages that you are sending out and how they might be interpreted by others. Remember this. There is no ‘bad’ style; only a failure or a resistance to be flexible and versatile.

If you want your message to be well received, speak in the language of your audience. It matters little that it sounds or feels good to you if it does not sound or feel good to them.

How does social style affect your relationships?

The negative effect of conflicting or non-complimentary social styles can be both subtly and overtly cumulative. If you are frequently at odds with others or you continually feel misunderstood, rapport has little chance to grow. It would be wise for you to take the early initiative of ‘tuning in’ to verbal and non-verbal clues of their (audience/friend) particular social style.

Disconnects or breakdowns are seldom one-sided. Again; this is not a discussion on changing the behavior of others; it is on you learning to be more cognizant and, subsequently, to be more socially versatile.

How can you make your social style more versatile?

Versatility truly is the key. Those who have learned to control their behavioral preferences or social styles so as to allow their brand(s) to establish rapport with a differing brand(s) or social style(s) are able to create, grow and maintain valuable interpersonal relationships.

The ‘expressive’ and the ‘driver’ – for example – may begin with listening and observing more and controlling less. For the ‘amiable’ and the ‘analytical’, it may help them to share in the enthusiasm or the sense of urgency of the ‘driver’ or the ‘expressive’.

Social versatility is the undeniable key to the success of all relationships. It is the art of rapport and the skill of friending in concert with one another.

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