BY Nicky Denegri

DATE: 08 APR 2016


“All growth takes place outside the comfort zone”.  So says contemporary artist Michael John Bobak. He’s not alone in saying this.  And he’s absolutely right.

We know at Kissing With Confidence that much of what happens in our training and coaching sessions pushes people’s buttons, and gets them outside of their own comfort zone.  But we always say that the best place to try (and to be honest, sometimes to “fail”) is in the training room.  It’s the best alternative there is to going into a networking event, meeting, presentation or pitch and absolutely bombing, to be honest.  

As well as giving people practical skills and knowledge, we also look at the “emotional intelligence” aspects of developing yourself and working with others.  

To this end we often use and refer to the MBTI and Social Styles questionnaires and models to help people understand and communicate more about themselves to others, in ways that make sense to those people, in order to build the relationship and get better outcomes all round.  Back in the Dark Ages (1998) I qualified as an authorised user of the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator).  This is a questionnaire that’s based on a model of personality, specifically your preferences for how you like to do a number of things:

  • take in information
  • make decisions
  • organise yourself
  • create and replenish your energy

It’s a slightly contentious questionnaire, to be honest, because it’s the theory of one man, Carl Jung (although to be fair he was a Swiss psychiatrist and is widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of psychology).  But – and it’s a big “but” - the MBTI still has huge value in inviting people to self-reflect about their preferences, share those with others and receive feedback on what people see.  It’s not about using personality as an excuse.  It’s an explanation, and one from which people can start to make decisions about the best behaviours to use, consistently, in order to build those relationships and get those mutually beneficial outcomes.  

However, we reckon we’ve really capitalised on the best bits of it, because almost exactly a year ago, my colleagues Russell, Michael and I were trained up as authorised users of the TRACOM Social Styles questionnaire and are using it alongside MBTI in the personal development elements of our training.  Social Styles is a fantastic model of which deals with two different dimensions of observable say/do behaviours:

  • Whether, when you are interacting with others, you are “Ask” or “Tell” Assertive and
  • Whether, when it comes to how you express/display your emotions, you are “Controlled” or “Emote” Responsive

Think about it this way: if I asked you to describe someone you know well to me (but whom I do not know) you would quickly be able to give me a pen picture of that person – what kind of things they like/don’t like, how they behave, speak, express themselves. You’ve built up that picture of them based on their behaviours ie what you can see versus what’s inside their head (unless they’ve shared that with you).  

The beauty of being able to identify these patterns of behaviour means that you can, if you choose, adapt your style to theirs, so both of you benefit when it comes to relationships and getting things done.  

Let’s go back to these dimensions.  The first looks at the differences between people using a style that is much more based on listening and questioning versus telling and directing, for example.

The second looks at the differences between people using a style where they don’t show/display their emotions to those who do.  It’s simple.  

When you combine these two different dimensions, you get four Social Styles. Fine.  Style is Style.  But then you bring the concept of Versatility into the frame.  It’s essentially the ability to recognise when people are using different patterns of behaviour to you, and to moderate what you’re doing to make your interactions with them easier for you both.  

“Why would I bother”, you might ask yourself?  Well, most of us want good relationships and we want good outcomes.  You might think “Why should I flex my style, and not vice versa?”  Because your behaviour is the only behaviour you can control, is the short and simple answer!  And because research shows that people with higher Versatility are seen by others as better colleagues, managers and leaders.  So it matters.  

The result of this, working with our clients in a coaching and training context, is that this has given them an insight into others’ needs as well as their own, and – I know I’m banging on about this here – helped them find ways to build those mutually beneficial relationships and outcomes more quickly, easily and productively.  

Combining use of the MBTI and Social Styles is a fantastic way to open the door to self-awareness, provide a platform for discussion, and help people build a tangible action plan based around things to say and do differently. We love it and our clients are reporting the benefits too.  

Interested?  Give us a call and we’ll tell you more about how we’ve helped people improve individual and team performance using these two fantastic questionnaires.   


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about the author

Nicky Denegri is our Senior Consultant. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop her an email and we will be in touch.


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