Identifying Social Style

Identifying Social Style

Columbia Southern University

Identifying Social Style

Responding to others “appropriately” can be very difficult at times. Verbal responses are easily controlled and can make up the most direct portion of a response, but its nonverbal responses that most people should be more aware of. Facial expressions and body movements are just part of a larger picture created by nonverbal responses. There are many different physical gestures that one can make, both intentionally and unintentionally, in response to things. Even something as simple as a heavy sigh can adversely change the intended response. The right timing can also be very important and can sometimes be nearly as important as the response itself. It’s very crucial for responses to be delivered at exactly the right moment in order to ensure it has the exact meaning intended. Interrupting simply to respond, for example, might make the listener ignore the response altogether, even when the response is perfect in every other way. For some, creating the perfect and timely response with the right amount of verbal and nonverbal communications can require a combination of training and experience.

Another very important part of a response is the message itself. If the listener is truly empathetic to a speaker that needs empathy, the response should easily be appropriate if handled professionally. If the listener is not truly empathetic, however, it may be very difficult to fake. Unfortunately, empathy isn’t easily learned. Empathy is typically an emotion discovered within people during upbringing as their character is being created. While it can be learned in life, true empathy is usually found within people when they are born.

Another important part of responding is asking questions. Listening intently plays a huge role in the ability to put together a good response, but listening alone doesn’t always guarantee the information needed is attained. Asking the right questions is very important when trying to understand how the person is actually feeling. Asking a question can also be a great way to induce more discussion from the speaker. In periods of silence that have gone on a little too long, asking a question can help the speaker to expound on certain areas and even double back to expound on previously discussed topics. Asking questions also gives the listener the ability to guide the discussion into a more desired direction. Speakers can sometimes get lost during message delivery; good listeners can help avoid this by keeping the speaker on track.

It’s important to the message sender that the receiver understands the whole message. Paraphrasing content can help the listener convey to the speaker that this message is heard and understood; this creates a comfortable feeling within the speaker. Communications require closure, but may seem to go on forever if the speaker is nervous or inexperienced. Good listeners can use paraphrasing content to help draw a communication towards a conclusion.

An important goal for empathetic listeners is to make sure the speaker knows that the listener understands their feelings. Paraphrasing emotions can be a useful tool when trying to relay this. While showing empathy at the appropriate times is important, not all responses should be empathetic; as a leader, some responses should be direct and should simply relay the listener’s position on a matter. Disciplinary actions, for example, can sometimes require a very callous and harsh reality that most people fear hearing. Determining exactly which type of approach is best for each situation must occur prior to that communication. Once this is done, style flexing can be used to adapt the response to the speaker.

Style flexing is the process of adapting ones communication to how others communicate and is another important tool used when determining a response. Being aware of one’s own social style and the social style of others allows for the adaptation of communication, which in-turn enhances the listener’s ability to be effective. The four social styles are: Expressive, Amiable, Analytical, and Driver. Each style of communicator can have predictable behaviors. Identifying our own social style first, and then the style of others can help us determine how we should approach each individual.

My social style, for example, is Expressive. I discovered this by answering the questions in the “Identifying Social Style” worksheet. I personally rated myself a five in every category. I knew this wasn’t likely accurate, but I answered the questions as honestly as I could and came up with that result. I then asked two of my coworkers to rate me. While they agreed with most of my responses, they rated me differently in some areas. They selected five for the majority of their answers, but I was surprised to see that both of them marked me down slightly in the categories tender and gentle. It did surprise me at first, but as I thought more about it I realized that neither of them have ever seen me anywhere else other than at work. Being in the military for 20 years engrained in me a work ethic that removes most distractions when I walk through the doors to my office. I usually come off as a fun guy, but when I get busy on a task, I zero in on my goal and work it until it’s complete. So, I understand how they might miss out on observing my tender and gentle side. If one were to ask any one of my five kids or my wife if I were either gentle or tender, however, my hope is that the answer would be yes.

My social style may or may not help with my listening ability. I feel that as an Expressive, I may have too much to say at times. I have my opinions, but feel that they are usually based in fact. During my military career, I received years of training and had numerous opportunities to gather experience both speaking and listening to people. I feel that this education and training has helped me to overcome any shortcomings that may be associated to my Expressive social style and I take pride in my ability to flex my style when needed. And to this day, I have never met anyone I couldn’t affectively communicate with.


Beebe, S. A. & Mottet, T. P. (2016). Business and Professional Communication. Principles and Skills for Leadership. Third Edition. United States of America. Pearson.