Social Styles and Interaction Styles

Most of my research on Social Styles is from the books by Bolton and Bolton. The Tracom website has a nice animated explanation so I see that it is very similar to the general sense of Social Styles that I know about.

In my early research on Social Styles, I noticed that some of the style descriptions were similar to aspects of temperament, but the four temperaments were not fully represented. It seemed to me that the styles were ‘fused’ with temperament. For example, The Amiable style seemed quite ISFJ like and the Analytic style seemed to have a mix of Stabilizer (Guardian or SJ) temperament that didn’t fit for me and. I finally figured out that I’m an analytic Amiable in that model.

It wasn’t until I had worked for a while with a differentiation of the four temperaments outlined by David Keirsey that I went back to Social Styles. In the late 1980’s and through the 1990’s we at Interstrength® Associates had begun to notice that there was a pattern to the intersection of the two dichotomies that Keirsey outlined: Role Directing vs Role Informing and Initiating vs Responding.

What eventually resulted was our Interaction Styles model, which works perfectly with type. In this model, there are four Styles—In-Charge, Chart-the-Course, Get-Things-Going, and Behind-the-Scenes. You can see more about this model in the Articles on this website.

One big difference between Social Styles and Temperament, type, or Interaction Styles is that Social Styles does not address an innate pattern, whereas these type models are addressing innate patterns that are somewhat stable over time. I like to think of them as our center of gravity. It is where we come from even when we are behaving flexibly and therefore out of pattern.

Social Styles is usually referred to as resulting from the intersection of two dimensions. In the MBTI® related type models, the pattern is there from the beginning as a whole and is not the result of dimensions or parts.  The dimensions are the dynamics of the patterns rather than the determiner of the patterns.

One way the two models are similar is that they provide valuable information about how we interact with others. The Tracom dimension of Control vs Display Responsiveness seems to relate to the Directing (NJ and ST in the type codes) and Informing (NP and SF in the type codes) Communication dichotomy of Interaction Styles. And the Ask vs Tell Assertiveness seems to relate to the Responding and Initiating Roles dichotomy of Interaction Styles and thus also to Introversion vs Extraversion.

I’d love to hear from others about their experiences using both or either of.