How do you take your coffee? Double-shot espresso or a leisurely skinny latte? These days there are countless ways to enjoy it now. Just as society embraces diverse tastes and time constraints, has it embraced distinct personality types and communication preferences too?
Out of the workplace, we can be more selective about who we meet with. Connections are forged by a deeper understanding and meeting of minds – often a subconscious connection.
Workplaces are different. A group of adults thrown together, expected to get along and work together in harmony. Muddling along in the same world, trying to make a good go of it. So why is it that you can communicate better with Sarah in the IT department than you do with Afia in Marketing? And just why does Mike ruffle your feathers?
It’s often down to personality type.
We could all be more self-aware and objective
As individuals we are complex. Starting to understand different personality types could help you form better personal and professional relationships. Understanding how different people operate will better equip you to deal with challenging situations and conversations.
Insight into an individual’s way of approaching working situations will help you understand their needs. As a result, you will be able to respond to their demands and build stronger partnerships.
We all have weaknesses (yes, we really do!), understanding yours and those around you will mean you’re kinder to yourself and can accept where and when you might need assistance.
How to measure personality types
There are a lot of models you can use to measure personality types. In organisations, they are used to gain an insight into the likely behaviours of their people. One of these personality models is the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) developed on the work of psychologist Carl Jung. It reports how we each have natural ‘preferred’ behaviours, which feel right to us, just like using our preferred right or left hand feels natural to us.
This model encourages us to look at people who are different from ourselves with interest, rather than with judgement, as there are no right or wrong or better types of personalities.
The model defines 16 different types of personality based on a combination of their preferences, within four dimensions or dichotomies: Extroversion – Introversion, Sensing – Intuition, Thinking-Feeling and Judging a-Perceiving.
The MBTI preferences:
Focus on the people and things in the outer world
Focus on the thoughts, feelings and impressions of the inner world
Focus on the facts and details that can be confirmed by experts
Focus on possibilities and relationships among ideas
Use impersonal, objective, logical analysis to reach conclusions
Use person-centred, subjective analysis to reach conclusions
Plan and organise; make decisions and achieve closure
Be spontaneous and adaptable; collect information and stay open to new options
Each person is said to have one preferred type, however, MBTI states that people will use all eight of these preferences at different times.
Understanding the four dichotomies and the range of personality ‘types’ that exist allows us to recognise how our behaviour might be led by our personalities and how this then makes us react.
Let’s consider an example of an Extrovert and Introvert in a meeting. The Extrovert will be louder, speak first, say what they think out loud and even talk over people, the Introvert will be quieter, thinking about their response and listening before saying anything. Both have their positives, knowing what you are and those of your team will help you to control the Extroverts and encourage the Introverts to contribute, ensuring a productive and supportive meeting.
For more information on how to take the MBTI assessment as part of the Explore Your Personality one-day course, head this way.
The four main behavioural styles:
As this is the start of your journey into understanding personality types, we’re going to look at the four main behavioural styles in extreme simplification so you can establish which one you relate to the most.
Before we begin, it is important to stress, that your behavioural style is far more complex than any personality and behavioural profile can reveal. Going through a test process will indicate your preferred behaviours, and should be considered in context of your work and personal life.
Furthermore, understanding yourself does not just come from internal perspectives. Feedback and interpretation of our behaviours and actions from others is an extremely valuable part of our self-awareness. Starting to understand different personality types and behavioural styles will provide context for why we may prefer or feel closer to some individuals than others.
What are the different behavioural styles
The outcome and ‘official name’ of your behavioural style depends on the tool you use to measure it. We all have a particular behaviour style and establishing which camp you sit in will help you figure out why you get on with certain people better than others.
Below is a brief outline of the four main behaviour styles that we all fit into:
The Driver behaviour style
Results-focused and rooted in the present, drivers love action, to put it simply, they get stuff done in an independent and practical manner. On the flip side, they can be harsh on themselves and those around them when under pressure, and sometimes they will stop at nothing to get a project over the line.
Communication with other styles:
Drivers work well with Analyticals – when they’re both working towards the same goals, they’ll complete the work required of them in no time.
The Expressive behaviour style
On a hunt for the bigger picture, Expressives are future-orientated, intuitive, and creative. If you have an ambitious project that’s slightly off-the-wall and you need it pulling together an Expressive person is the one you want. They can be manipulating, undisciplined, and egotistical when pushed.
Communication with other styles:
Expressives work well with Amiables who form a willing audience for their sometimes out-there ideas.
The Amiable behaviour style:
People orientated, considerate and empathetic, they are the warm and welcoming people in the world. They have their opinions but prefer to know the opinions of others and are strong when it comes to understanding relationships. However, when under pressure, they can cave, become awkward and unsure of their actions.
Communication with other styles:
Amiable people get on well with Expressives thanks to both being interested in people and exploring their emotions.
The Analytical behaviour style:
The perfectionists of the world. It’s fair to say Analytical people are often right because they give matters time, reflection, and rational consideration before expressing their opinion. Sometimes this reflection and cautiousness is a barrier to success, especially when put under pressure for a decision.
Communication with other styles:
A Driver is an Analytical person’s best friend, they can help them get work tasks done. They might not get on so well with an Expressive due to their risk-averse nature.
Some of us will strongly identify with one of the above styles, others might see a bit of themselves in all four. Establishing this initial awareness to how you function is a great start on your journey to understanding different personality types.
How to communicate with different behaviour styles
Here are five tips to help you communicate with different personality types to keep your workplace environment productive, inclusive and healthy:
- Establish how and why someone likes to communicate in a certain way. Maybe they prefer email over phone, or it might be that they prefer in person meetings to zoom meetings. Understanding someone’s preferences and putting yourself in their shoes will keep feeling of “they’re being difficult or annoying” at bay.
- Culturally there are different ways of communicating. This can lead to cross-cultural misinterpretations even when both parties are trying their best. If you find yourself getting continually frustrated with a colleague, find time to talk to them and establish how you can communicate effectively.
- Approach your colleagues objectively. Placing personal preferences on colleagues will set them up for failure – they’re not meeting your expectations which leads to frustration – yet does your colleague even know what your expectations are?
For example, if your personality type is expressive and your colleague is analytical, their slower and sometimes cautious approach to a project could set your pulse racing. Before you commence a project with them set out your stall and discuss how you will approach the project. Having this type of conversation at the start with lead to less frustration and allow an objective approach. You’ll go from “John is so slow” to “John is being thorough and making sure he’s gathering all the information needed”.
- Embrace individuality and be curious. If someone has a different approach to work, ask them about it. If someone is challenging your answers, ask them why. If you feel someone wasn’t listening to what you said, ask them about it. Often, the answers to the above questions may surprise you. Where we think someone was being difficult, fractious or wasn’t listening, it might just be that they approach work differently, are trying to bring out the best in you or are silent because they’re carefully considering their answer.
- Flex your style. Being flexible with your communication style when you’re interacting with different people will create an inclusive working environment. You’ll be more likely to get the answer you were looking for and you’ll be seen as an assertive and empathetic member of the team.
What are the benefits of understanding personality types in the workplace?
Personality measurement tools are used to gain an insight into the behaviours of job candidates through a recruitment process, to help teams work effectively together or, to enable progression as part of a program of management development.
The benefits of understanding personality types in the workplace:
- To make you more aware of the best role for you.
- Enable positive/constructive conversations with colleagues.
- Appreciation of how your colleagues will deal with change and setbacks.
- Enable you to work with empathy and compassion.
- Feel more stable at work and understand what’s expected of you.
- To help you move from surviving at work, to thriving.
We hope this article has been a good introduction to why it is important to understand personality types and behavioural styles in the workplace. And remember, a workplace is a fusion of different personality types, behavioural styles, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. It’s not differences that divide us but how they are approached. We cannot control other people and their emotions. We can control how we perceive them, interact with them and how we allow them to influence our wellbeing and outlook.
Karen is an innovator, disruptive thinker, and creative problem solver championing change to encourage self-awareness, reflection and engagement. Karen is the founder of Leap Like a Salmon. An online personalised learning platform that provides learners with the CPD tools to capture, manage and plan their CPD (continuing professional development).