What’s Your Social Style?

Photo credit Katie Ricard
Photo credit Katie Ricard

Something Tamsin said on Twitter caught my eye this week. She had been to a communication seminar for work, and tweeted that she was a Driver Expressive, loud and bossy. Well I don’t know about the loud part (haha see what I did there?), but she immediately reminded me of a book I have sitting on my shelf.

You see, I love personality tests. I find it fun analysing myself and my friends, and fitting us into little boxes. There’s a favourite book of mine from childhood that does this very well, called The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines. It’s by Bob Phillips, who is a Christian and a family counsellor. This book has travelled around to all my homes with me. At uni I used to pull it out at parties and we’d quiz each other. I’d find out interesting things like my mate had chosen the same personality type for his girfriends four times in a row.

The thing I liked about this book, was that it didn’t just sort you into types, it also talked about the strengths and weaknesses and how to best communicate and interact with each type. The focus of the book was how to get along better with others which, being an Amiable type, I appreciated.

I have reproduced some of the book here so you can share in the fun! The actual quiz has been included at the bottom of the post if you wish to do it.

Each personality type is a combination of two behaviours (asker & teller, relationship or task orientated), which form to make four basic social styles: Amiable, Expressive, Driver or Analytical.

Amiables: The Support Specialists (from pg 47)

Amiables like to work with words and often influence large groups through writing. They work well with others and promote harmony. They sometimes place unrealistic expectations on themselves and others. They will often romanticise experiences and relationships. Amiables like to have direction. They often observe others and seek deep meaning in relationships and experiences. They care more for interaction than action. They are very compassionate for those who may be hurting. They are patient, good listeners and filled with integrity.

Strengths: sympathetic & kind, easygoing & relaxed, patient & well-balanced, quiet but witty

Weaknesses: indecisive, fearful & worried, avoids responsibility, too compromising, self-righteous

Photo credit Katie Ricard

Expressives: The Social Specialists (from pg 48)

Expressives are very impulsive individuals. They like to try the new and different. They enjoy wandering. They like to live for the here and now. They struggle with commitment and follow-through. Expressives have happy spirits and can endure hardships and trials easier than other social styles. They like to reminisce and enjoy belonging to social organisations. They are friendly, giving and easygoing.

Strengths: life of the party, emotional & demonstrative, good sense of humour, sincere heart

Weaknesses: compulsive talker, angers easily, egotistical, exaggerates & elaborates, disorganised

Drivers: The Control Specialists (from pg 45-46)

Drivers are obsessed by a strong compulsion to perform. They take pleasure in almost any kind of work because it involves activity. Idleness will destroy drivers. They desire to control and master everything they do. Drivers like new ideas, challenges and competition. They have a passion for knowledge. They can be overtly forceful and may require too much from themselves and others. Many times Drivers are haunted by the possibility of failure. They are self-controlled, persistent and logical.

Strengths: born leader, strong-willed & decisive, dynamic & active, independent & self-sufficient

Weaknesses: bossy, impatient, can’t relax, unsympathetic, dominates others, can’t say sorry

Analyticals: The Technique Specialists (from pg 44-45)

Analyticals have a strong sense of duty and obligation. They are driven by a forceful work ethic, and play comes harder for them. They are natural givers and often take on the role of parent for other people and organisations. Analyticals often take on too much responsibility. They see themselves as conservators and tend to worry. They will save and store for the future, believing that they cannot save too much. They are steadfast, reliable and dependable.

Strengths: deep & thoughtful, talented & creative, sensitive to others, self-sacrificing, idealistic

Weaknesses: persecution complex, hard to please, off in another world, remembers the negatives

Recognise yourself in any of these descriptions? If you’re not sure, skip down to the bottom and try out the quiz.

The great thing about this book is that the author doesn’t just stop there. He explores the social styles and how they react and interact in all kinds of roles and situations. He looks at how we are as parents, in the workplace, as a leader, as a follower, how we interact in a marriage of different styles, how we react in conflicts, how we can adapt to meet the needs of each style.

Here’s a few quick pointers on how to adapt to the needs of the people in your life who are different social styles.

Analyticals (from pg 119)

  1. Analyticals are askers, and don’t appreciate people who come on too strong.
  2. Don’t expect quick decisions from them. Give them time to reflect on the information.
  3. They sometimes feel awkward in relationships. Help them save face by not putting too much pressure on them in social situations.


Drivers (from pg 120-121)

  1. Drivers are tellers, and they appreciate people who make their points clearly and concisely. Get to your bottom line quickly, don’t bore them with details.
  2. Since Drivers like to feel in control, let them choose their methods or paths of response.
  3. Drivers struggle with impatience. Since they process information and accomplish tasks quickly, they do not have much patience with those who think or work slowly. Try to increase your pace around Drivers.

Amiables (from pg 121-122)

  1. Amiables do not offer hasty opinions or make quick decisions, because they don’t want to say anything which might hamper their relationships. Help them realise that sharing their thoughts will not affect their relationship with you.
  2. Amiables do not like to work alone. They need much encouragement and assurance, and they need to feel they are part of the team.
  3. Amiables like to know they are accepted. Take time to show personal interest in them.

Expressives (from pg 122-123)

  1. Expressives have a tendency to “tell it like it is”. Try not to take their comments personally. Many times they are just letting off steam and you happen to be in the way.
  2. Expressives are intuitive thinkers. Have patience with their quick decisions. They operate at a feeling level and may not always be able to give you a rational explanation for their behaviour.
  3. Expressives tend to start many jobs and not complete them. Try to work with them to accomplish tasks. They like to visit with other people while working, and they do not do their best when working alone.

What I’ve shared from this great book is just the tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend you buy it, or look for it at the library. I’ve learnt a lot about people and how they relate/communicate from reading it, and about myself.

What social style are you?  (I’m an Expressive Amiable) Are you what you expected? Do you agree with the descriptions? Let me know in the comments!


Proceed my friends, and discover whether you are an Amiable, Expressive, Driver or Analytical.

There are two parts to the quiz process.

When answering, go with whatever behaviour is most comfortable and instinctive to you, most of the time.

Part One: are you an asker or a teller? (adapted from pg 33-40)

Keep score of how many times you choose in the asker column, and in the teller column.

Question Asker Teller
What is your first response when under stress? Flight Fight
What is your driving emotion & motivation under stress? Fear Anger
What is your speech like in general? Silent, communicates hesitantly, lower quantity of talk Talkative, communicates readily, higher quantity of talk
What is the pace & quality of your speech like? Slower, fewer, more tentative statements Faster, greater, more emphatic statements
How loud is your speech? Soft with little variation in tone Loud & emphasises points through challenging tone
Why do you ask questions? For clarification, support & information To emphasise points (rhetorical) & challenge information
How do you move your body? Slow & deliberate, soft handshake, hands relaxed or cupped Fast, rapid, firm handshake, pointing at others
What is your body posture like? Lean back while talking or making a request or stating an opinion Lean forward while talking especially when making a request or stating an opinion
How is your eye contact? Indirect, inconsistent, less intense Direct, consistent, more intense
How do you express opinions? More tentative, reserves opinions More emphatic & forceful, shares opinions
How confrontive are you? Less confrontive, nonaggressive More confrontive, aggressive
How do you act upon meeting others? Tend to let others take the intiative, avoid imposing on others Tend to personally take the initiative, make presence known
How do you make decisions? Decide less quickly, will not pressure others for decisions Decide more quickly, will press others for decisions
How do you approach risk? Don’t like to take chances, like the old & familiar Like to take chances, like to try the new & different
What sort of first impression do you make? Likeable, shy Overwhelming, outspoken
How do you act in a group? Go along attitude, supportive Take charge attitude, directive
How do you use power? Tend to avoid use of power Tend to use both personal & positional power
What do you do when others talk? Listen carefully Have difficulty listening
What do you do when under pressure or stress? More easy going, will withdraw or give in More impatient, will become dogmatic or attack
Add up your totals for each column: ____________ Total Asking Behaviours ______________Total Telling Behaviours

Remember your higher score. Now that you know whether you’re an asker or a teller, we can move on to the last part of the quiz.

Part two of the quiz determines whether you are more task orientated, or more relationship orientated. Once again, keep track of how much you score in each column. That score together with your asker/teller score, will reveal which personality type you most resemble.

Question Task-Orientated Relationship-Orientated
What is your dress style? More formal More casual
What is your tone of speech like? Some inflection Much inflection
What do you talk about? Current issues & tasks at hand People, stories & anecdotes
How do you use your hands/arms? Limited gestures & closed hands Frequent gestures & open hands
How is your body posture? More rigid More relaxed
What are your facial expressions like? More controlled More relaxed
What is your general attitude? More toward the serious side More toward the playful side
How do you behave when first meeting others? Tend to be more reserved Tend to be more outgoing
How do you handle your emotions? Tend to hide them, to be controlled & guarded Tend to share them, to be more open & less guarded
What sort of general knowledge do you talk about? Facts & data, tend to make more specific statements Opinons & stories, tend to make more general statements
Are you into small talk? Less interested More interested
Are you into jokes & stories? Less interested More interested
How do you make decisions? Based on facts more than feelings Based on feelings more than facts
How do you use your time? More disciplined & less flexible More flexible & less disciplined
How do you feel about supervision? Appreciate supervision that gives goals & objectives Appreciates supervision that is concerned about me as a person
What’s your general attitude about rules? Lean more towards “letter of the law”, more strict & disciplined Lean more towards “spirit of the law”, more permissive & fluid
How do you express yourself non-verbally? Tend to be slow in giving it Tend to be immediate in feedback
How do you share opinons? More restrained, guarded, cautious & precise More impulsive, forceful & general
How do you relate to others? Tend to be hard to get to know, tend to keep distance Tend to be very easy to get to know, tend to seek attention of others
Add up your totals for each column: ______________Total task-orientated ______________Total relationship-orientated

Now look at your highest scores in part one and part two. Put them together and find out your social style.

Amiable: more asking behaviours and more relationship-orientated

Analytical: more asking behaviours and more task-orientated

Driver: more telling behaviours and more task-orientated

Expressive: more telling behaviours and more relationship-orientated

Secondary Style (from pg 71-72)

To find your secondary style, ask yourself almost the same questions as you did when identifying your primary style. For example, let’s say that you are primarily a Driver. Ask yourself “As a Driver, am I more of an asker or a teller?”. Having determined that, ask yourself “As a Driver, am I more task-orientated or relationship-orientated?” If your anwers to these questions are teller and relationship-orientated, then you are an Expressive Driver. If you answer asker and task-orientated, you are an Analytical Driver.

If you have difficulty determining your primary and secondary styles, and if you see yourself performing all the behaviours of Analyticals, Amiables, Drivers and Expressives, you are probably an Analytical. Analyticals tend to see themselves in all four areas equally.

All quotes from: Phillips, Bob. The Delicate Art of Dancing with Porcupines. Ventura: Regal Books, 1989.

This book is out of print, however you can buy second hand here

Pictures 1 and 3 are from the book being discussed. Picture 2 is from here.  Picture 4 is from here.

  • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

    I loved this workshop! It was fascinating.

    But what got me was how when people were criticising other communication styles, I really wanted to pipe up with “I don’t do that!!”

    I would like to say I think it’s hilarious that you said you don’t know if I’m loud but said nothing about the bossy bit 😉

    • Bek M

      Hee hee 😉
      Yeah in the book it says all social styles are good, just different. And your personality is a mix of your parental upbringing, your environment, your experiences, as well as your social style. For example, I’m supposed to be hopeless at disciplining children and nervous about public speaking, but my training as a teacher, and my high school experiences in debating and drama knocked that out of me. :-)

      • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

        Yeah, I’m supposed to be able to make decisions quickly (Hmm…)

        The quiz we did was different, and you ended up with a cross at the end, divided into four, which determined your primary style (Expressive for me) and your secondary style (Driver).

        Similar, though.

  • http://music.johnanthonyjames.com/ John James

    From the quizz, I’m apparently an Asker/Tasker. (11/8 on both) – which means I’m analytical…except I don’t think I resemble the description for Analyticals that much…I think I’m more Amiable…

    I’m probably an Analytical Amiable then…

    • Bek M

      It says further down that Analyticals tend to see themselves in more than one social style- so maybe you’re an Analytical with Amiable as a secondary style. :-)

    • http://tamsinhowse.com/blog Tamsin Howse

      I think you’re primarily Amiable with Driver as your secondary, when I did it. But that’s me.

  • Claire Wallace

    Very interesting – thanks Bek!

    I came across these social styles recently myself too, in a communications workshop I facilitated at work. This goes into a lot more detail though. I like that it’s based on behaviour, which makes it less subjective than some ‘personality type’ tests.

    I think it’s really counter-productive for people to use this as an excuse to criticise other people’s styles (as T mentioned above). Just because a style is different to yours does not make one better than the other. Just different!

  • Whippersnapper

    I got 16 for teller and 12 for relationship oriented and I can’t work out what they mean! Bek HELP ME!

    • Bek M

      *puts on her social styles super cape & flies to the rescue*

      If your teller score was higher than your asker score, and your relationship score was higher than your task score, then you are an Expressive. :-)

    • Bek M

      If being an Expressive doesn’t totally feel like you, then you may have a strong secondary style. For example I’m an Amiable, who tends to be more introverted in their behaviour. I went back to the quiz and thought “well as an Amiable, I tend to engage in a fair bit of talker (extrovert) behaviour.” I was still relationship orientated, so my secondary style is Expressive (teller/relationship).

      • Whippersnapper

        I sound like an Expressive!

  • Monique Fischle

    As usual, I’m fairly divided when it comes to these. I have such a contradictory personality, which is all kinds of fun haha

    I got 10 for Asker and 9 for Teller so that was pretty close, but then I got only 7 for Task and 12 for Relationship, so I think that makes me Amiable Expressive. Is that right?

    Like most people, I’m really hard to define in terms of personality profiles, because my personality varies so much. It’s fun living inside my head 😛

  • Melissa Savage

    I’m a strong expressive, based on these results, but I think I’m a driver as well.

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