How aware are you of your own personality traits? And the personality types of others around you? To leverage them so as to better relate to more people?
Other than describing someone as “temperamental”, have you heard or read much about “the four temperaments”? How well can you recognize them and utilize people’s dominant “personality” traits in improving your rapport and influencing skills?
The concept of the temperaments played an important part in pre-modern psychology. And whilst in no way pretending to being a psychologist, I have found this to have become a very useful part of my work. Helping business people become more aware of what influences their behaviour and that of others.
And so I wanted to share some of that with you today.
Background to personality types
Historically the concept of temperament was part of the theory of the four humours, with their corresponding four temperaments.
In Waldorf education and anthroposophy, the temperaments are used to help understand personality. They are seen as avenues into teaching, with many different types of blends. Which can be utilized to help with both discipline and defining the methods used with individual children and class balance.
My 3 children went through the alternative Waldorf, also called Rudolf Steiner education system, where we were exposed to the “four temperaments” or “personality types” from very early on.
I often recommend psychologist and writer Florence Littauer’s book Personality Plus in which she most delightfully describes these four personality types.
In the business sphere, DISC expanded upon this in a quadrant behavioural model based on the work of William Moulton Marston PhD (1893–1947). Examining the behaviour of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation. It therefore focuses on the styles and preferences of such behaviour.
Just to briefly describe the “quadrant model” we speak of people being either more extroverted (top) or more introverted (bottom) on the one axis. And more task (left) or more people (right) oriented on the other axis.
- Choleric / Dominants
Hence people found to be “wired” more in the top left quadrant (extrovert & task oriented) are called Choleric, or in DISC language the Dominants.
They are the do-ers with much energy, passion and ambition that are used to leading and driving outcomes. They prefer telling to asking and prefer to lead and be in control. (It would be typical for them to say: “be reasonable – see it my way”).
They will lead the charge.
- Sanguine / Influencers
People more at home in the top right quadrant (extrovert & people oriented) are called Sanguine, or in DISC language the Influencers.
These are the more social, outgoing type that easily make contacts (and friends) and can be quite loud. They are often very creative but usually have little care for attention to detail, however are usually very inspiring and influence well to a cause.
If you asked them what kind or make of car it was they were describing they would probably say: “a red one”.
They will sell and inspire the charge.
- Phlegmatic / Steadies
Those in the bottom right quadrant (introvert & people oriented) are called Phlegmatic, or in DISC language the Steadies.
Phlegmatics are usually content, caring and popular people intent on keeping things harmonious and everyone happy. They hate conflict and draw people to them through lack of judgement and because they are often so relaxed and laid back.
They will be sure you all love the charge.
- Melancholic / Compliants
Finally those in the bottom left quadrant (introvert & task oriented) are called Melancholic, or in DISC language the Compliants.
Melancholics are the perfectionist detail people. They like rules, structure and punctuality and are very detail oriented.Often so wrapped up in the “detail stuff”, they can forget or prefer to avoid the “people stuff”.
They will manage the detail of the charge.
Would you agree with me that it isn’t too hard to figure out whether someone is more extroverted or introverted? And then with a few questions whether they are more task or people oriented? This awareness coupled with a reasonable knowledge of the behaviour preferences of each quadrant is a simple and powerful means to honour your appreciation of their preferred behaviour. And to improve your communication skills, by being able to “speak their language”.
My experience has been that when both partners in a relationship have read the above Personality Plus book, they have a much better understanding of “where the other is coming from”. I have found it also very useful to understand the preferences I mentioned before.
In the business context, if you Google DISC you will find a bunch of different resources outlining this model and how it can be used.
Some of these in my work have been:
Rapport and Influence
In my communication and soft skill grooming and training I focus strongly on “listening with all your senses”; that we give the person we are speaking with our complete attention so they can think through and articulate a thought to its conclusion without fear of interruption. In doing so, we earn their trust. And earn the right to speak or pitch or “sell” to them, having completely heard them out.
In doing so, I teach my clients that three things will have a significant influence on building and strengthening your rapport with them:
a) Observe the way in which they are communicating, not just what they are saying
b) Notice how they are saying it (my clients learn specifically what to look out for here)
c) Adapt your style to emulate theirs so that their “unconscious mind” notices that you are “speaking their language”.
I was born a phlegmatic, but have studied these four temperaments and their resultant personality and behaviour profiles so that I am just as easily able to recognize and then emulate all four of them.
So part of my communication skill today is to (unconsciously) assess which quadrant they would most probably fit in strongest. Remember most people have a dominant characteristic and then some lesser degree aspects of one or some of the others also. And then adapt my style and “language” to best fit in with theirs. This strengthens rapport and therewith also influence. It also helps me know which behaviour patterns to expect and also which ones not to use with them.
In my diplomacy grooming and training I place quite some emphasis on “saving face”. That means to first consider the impact of what you are about to say might have on the person you are about to say it to. Will it “paint them in a corner” and potentially leave them “nowhere to go” – that they feel “trapped”? Could the statement be better served with a question instead and then perhaps be one that “leaves them somewhere to go” as in enabling them “an out” to save face?
Will it feel confronting for them? Will they feel judged? Will the approach you are about to use work for or with them? Could a better understanding of their personality give you some insights into what might work better for them? For example, cholerics (or dominants) love to be challenged, but that would be completely counterproductive for a phlegmatic (or steady).
Many large organisations use such profiling models to assess people’s “personality profile” and often relate behavioural expectations in the interview process. I have often seen such tools used to assist in the final candidate selection, where knowing the profile of the people in the team or department, they were able to apply such profile suggestions to help assure a more balanced spread of personalities. This could also aid the newcomer in “fitting in” better.
More recently I have used such information to assist management teams understand each other’s personality types and appreciate the different behaviours to be expected from each. Another step would be that when next the team is to be changed or expanded, that a better balance may be achieved with some emphasis in these temperaments.
Are there any of you reading this that are aware of or have used any other applications you are willing to share with us? Go on, why not leave a comment that will benefit all of us?
Can you see how this can be a useful adjunct to your own personal communication skills? That it might enhance your appreciation or understanding of where others are coming from? Perhaps enhance your understanding of why they might react in certain stereotypes?
I am aware of a number of globally successful organizations that use these skills as part of their fundamental “people skills” training because it is so simple yet so affective.
What if you “had a go” and it worked for you? Could it be that you own personality plus the better understanding of others’ is like the “spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down” in terms of your relationship skills, your communication skills and ultimately your influencing skills
What if you could?
Gerald Richards says
Great article and what about Jung?
In training sales people and sales managers I use our own mnemonic, R.E.A.D. – Researcher, Expressive, Amiable, Driver. I stress that it is observable behaviour we are considering, not personality types. This is important as one is not a psychologist and also we are constantly changing our behaviour, given the circumstances.
It is also important to emphasize not to put people in ‘boxes’ (unless they are about to inherit six foot of real estate) on the first meeting by trying immediately to place them firmly in one of the four quadrants. This can lead to the LOLO effect – Lock on, Lock out.
In sales it is useful to understandthe other party’s behaviour/communication style as one can then adapt. To determine a style it is also important to LOQ on (Listen, Observe, Question) to the other party so it is easier to R.E.A.D. the situation.