How to Leverage Your Social Style

When I think of someone’s personality, I imagine something that is non-changing and tirelessly stable. I envision it being stubborn and unwilling to shift. It’s like a birthmark on your cheek that has been there since the very beginning and isn’t going away anytime soon. Everyone can see it regardless of how much foundation you slather on to try to cover it up.

1the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character.

I’ve taken my fair share of personality tests….the results telling me which combination of characteristics make me who I am. In fact, I participated in one this past week at a work conference. My team and I determined our Social Styles. The theory is based on the idea that there are four behavioral “styles,” which determine how people think, make decisions, communicate, manage time and stress, and deal with conflict.


Merrill DW, Reid RH. Personal Styles and Effective Performance.Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 1999:2.


I went through the exercise and was told, yet another time, that I fit into a specific box. And I couldn’t help but think…now what?

I sorted through my initial thoughts and grappled with the idea that I was trapped in this little box, forever and always. Am I stuck with my one social style, my unchanging personality, whether it be good or bad?

Not quite. I came to realize there is a way we can all leverage the strengths of our personality and work to change it for the better.


3 Ways to Leverage Your Social Style

  1.  Play up your strengths.

    We all have unique characteristics that allow us to add something positive to this world big, ol’ world. Whether it’s your ability to build enthusiasm and excitement within your office or to set clear, measurable metrics for a project—your team needs you. When you recognize and fully embrace your unique strengths, you can use them to your strategic advantage at work and at home. I realized that I successfully offer a big picture vision and lofty ideas while planning for strategy, which has helped my organization build a long-term plan.

  2.  Find a Social Style mentor.

    What does that mean? Your social style mentor should be someone that ‘falls within a different category,’ so to speak. Their dominant traits will differ distinctly from yours, which could certainly create friction. But, it also creates a learning opportunity. By discovering the ways in which your mentor works, communicates and relates with others, you will be better prepared to collaborate and adapt to different individuals in the future. While I prefer to use multiple exclamation points in my emails, I’ve learned that my mentor has a much more muted tone. While I may read that as negative or unkind, that is simply not their style.

  3. Recognize that your personality is not fixed.

    At the beginning of this post, I shared my original perception of a personality: it’s something that ain’t changing. However, extensive research has proved this is not true! Our personalities are not fixed. In fact, a researcher at the University of Illinois found that “people not only want to change their personalities— they may be able to actually change their personality traits in desired ways.’ The study found that individuals who identified a very specific personality trait to change were much more effective than those who set more general goes (e.g. assertiveness vs. general extraversion). Be specific, be persistent, and you can make a change.






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