People Styles at Work… .And Beyond | Dorothy Grover Bolton

Summary of: People Styles at Work… .And Beyond: Making Bad Relationships Good and Good Relationships Better
By: Dorothy Grover Bolton


In ‘People Styles at Work…And Beyond’, authors Dorothy Grover Bolton and Dr. Robert Bolton address the challenges that arise from our differences in communication and behavior. They introduce a ‘people styles model’, inspired by industrial psychologist David Merrill’s research on behavioral differences, which classifies people into four distinct styles: Analytical, Driver, Amiable, and Expressive. These styles are defined by varying degrees of assertiveness and responsiveness. Understanding one’s own style, as well as the styles of others, enables individuals to better connect with others, navigate relationships, and find common ground in both work and personal settings. The book also offers practical advice on minimizing conflicts and leveraging the strengths of each style.

Individual Behavioral Patterns

People have unique ways of thinking, making decisions, and dealing with emotions, stress, and conflict. Some behavioral patterns can impede effective communication, persuasion, and rapport building.

Four Human Styles

The “people styles model” classifies individuals into four distinct styles, with no one style being superior or inferior. While people are usually predictable, this model is not a predictor of success or failure. Industrial psychologist David Merrill’s research in the early 1960s informs this model, which observes individual assertiveness and responsiveness degrees to identify styles. The model sees differences, but no good or bad styles.

Assertiveness: A Continuum of Behavior

Assertiveness is a spectrum of behavior that varies from person to person. It is not necessary to be aggressive to be assertive, and people who are assertive are more likely to take risks and make decisions. They tend to have intense eye contact, gesturing, and high energy and prefer speaking up and addressing problems. Conversely, those less assertive often exhibit opposite traits and are slower in decision-making. Understanding that assertiveness is a behavior continuum can help in developing better communication skills, building positive relationships, and achieving overall success in both personal and professional life.

Four Possible Communication Styles

Understanding Assertiveness and Responsiveness in Communication

Communication experts suggest that responsiveness measures how much a person displays their emotions and shows awareness of how others feel. Some people tend to be more responsive than others, which doesn’t necessarily connote emotionality. On the other hand, individuals who are less responsive exhibit reserved behavior, make fewer gestures, and show less interest in small talk. Additionally, they tend to focus more on facts and structure, dress formally and work alone. Thus, there are four possible communication styles determined by combinations of assertiveness and responsiveness. Understanding these styles can help you communicate better with people around you.

Characteristics of Analyticals

Analyticals are detail-oriented, organized, and risk-takers who prefer working alone and discussing facts over feelings.

Analyticals possess a distinct set of characteristics that differentiate them from other personality types. Being less assertive and responsive, they tend towards the perfectionist side, with high standards and detail-oriented thinking. Analyticals approach tasks in a methodical and calculated way, making them efficient risk-takers. Though they are punctual, they occasionally miss deadlines. As introverts, they prefer working alone, and they tend to be more task-oriented than people-oriented. Analyticals often communicate indirectly and prefer discussing facts instead of emotions. Peter Drucker identified this type as “the thought person ” for their analytical abilities.

The Characteristics of Drivers

Drivers are known for their fast-paced, independent, and results-driven nature. They can make quick decisions, even without all the information, but are capable of changing their minds. They excel at time management and prefer to work autonomously. In communication, they stick to the facts and use forceful gestures and a loud tone. Drivers are less expressive but are still regarded as the “action person.” These traits make them assertive, less responsive, and often surprising to other styles.

Understanding Amiable Personalities

Amiable personalities are warm, good listeners that work best in structured environments with well-defined responsibilities. They prefer to avoid conflict and use tact and diplomacy to convey unwelcome messages. Although slower to form opinions, they make great team players and will fight back when pushed too far.

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