View from the Hot Tub #7

As I sit in the hot tub this evening, alone, I realize that although I do enjoy the solitary contemplative time, I am more content when I’m joined by my wife and/or friends. Is this by choice or involuntary?

They say we each have a behavior style: one we’re born with (instinctive) and one we may have “learned.” I have unlearned one style and realized I am a people-person. I think this should be part of our education: the ability to recognize our personal behavior style. It would help explain a lot about life… about ourselves and understanding others. Even our children…our kids are not necessarily like us and not recognizing this can cause unnecessary family turmoil.

Being naturally self-centered and in our search for validity we often expect other people to behave like we do and how we think they should. Behavior can be broken down into four fundamental “styles.” Two are “task-directed:” 1) Driver/ Dominant: 2) Analytical/ Compliant. Two are people-directed: 1) Expressive/ People-people; 2) Amiable/ team-oriented-people. Both Driver and Expressive are what you could say are ‘tell-directed’ assertive. Analytical and Amiable are ‘ask-directed’ assertive or non-assertive.

An elevator analogy demonstrates the differences well: 1) The Driver will get on the elevator, push the door-close button, and stand in the front. They have places to go, important things to do, and the sooner the better. 2) The Expressive will hold the door open and check both ways to see if anybody might be on their way. 3) The Analytical will stay by the buttons, check how many people are on the elevator, estimate the total weight, and inform the last people on that they need to get off if the weight exceeds the maximum for the elevator. 4) The Amiable might well figure the over-capacity as well, but will get off, themselves, and wait for the next elevator.

These differences can create unintended conflicts. The Analytical angry at the Driver for making decisions based on expediency while they, themselves may never have enough information to make a decision, driving the Driver nuts—but it will be the RIGHT decision when they finally do arrive at a conclusion. Expressives may never focus sufficiently on a task, driving everybody nuts… although it’s the last thing they wanted to do as they want to be liked by everyone. The Amiable may well know what should be done but fear hurting somebody’s feelings by pressing the point…the Dominant and Analytical thinking them wishy-washy, when they’re simply trying to avoid conflict.

No styles are good or bad—all necessary to make the world go around. But it’s definitely a good idea to know yourself to be aware of how your behavior affects others and understand why others act the way they do. Like you, they have to act that way…that’s who they are; it’s not a choice. Often bosses and CEO’s are Drivers. They get the job done, a decision had to be made…sometimes right or sometimes wrong. But a decision was darn well made! Analyticals are engineers, accountants, analysts and the like. Somebody’s got to figure shit out. Leave em alone to do it and they’ll eventually get it right. Expressive/people-people are often in sales and will talk your ear off and want everyone to be happy and enjoy themselves…feel good about a decision whether it’s right or wrong. Amiables, as the name implies, are team-people. And since they don’t like conflict, will compromise and concede their personal feelings if need be to get the job done.

As I mentioned, you can learn or ‘adopt’ a secondary style other than your instinctive one. When I was a kid, for example, being a captain on my sports teams and thinking I needed to be a leader, I adopted a Driver/Dominant style. But as I got older and especially when I became a teacher I learned that my instinctive style, being an expressive, people-person, worked a lot better and I was more comfortable in my skin. So I’ve come to realize that that was actually my natural, instinctive style.

But, back in my teaching/coaching days, for example, some of my students were confused by my behavior. In my English class I liked a lively, random even, fun, open forum type environment. If one of these students ended up being a soccer player, they had to adapt to my style as a coach…similar to my playing days. They had to be quiet, listen up, do what they were told, be where they were supposed to be on the field—or sit on the bench. Still fun, I hoped, as winning is ‘fun’ in sports…open-forums don’t result in wins in sports.

‘Recognizing’ is a very under-rated attribute. Recognizing your own style will help you discover what path you should be on in your life and recognizing other people’s styles will make that path a lot smoother.

This ‘View’ may seem random, but check next the next “View from the Hot Tub.”