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"Social style" is the behavior that one exhibits when interacting with others. Being aware of your own social style helps a person develop relationships, particularly at work.

"Social Styles" is the name of a particular psychometric instrument that helps people to better understand and work with others through appreciation of their basic decision making and control needs.


Originally, Social Styles was determined by having respondents say "yes" or "no" to 150 adjectives measuring three scales: Assertiveness, Responsiveness, and Versatility.

Assertiveness: The effort a person makes to influence the thinking and actions of others. Or - the measure of whether a person appears to ask or tell in interactions with others.

Responsiveness: The extent to which a person reacts readily to influence or stimulation with a display of feelings.

Versatility: A type of social endorsement based, in part, on the extent to which others see the individual as competent, adaptable, and behaving appropriately. Versatility measures the extent to which a person appears to be working to make relationships mutually productive.

The first two trace back to Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton's Managerial Grid Model. The two Social Style scales revealed that by combining the two dimensions, Assertiveness and Responsiveness, four patters of behavior, or "Social Styles", can be identified.

Driving: (Tell Assertive + Control Responsive) These individuals are seen as strong willed and more emotionally controlled.

Expressive: (Tell Assertive + Emote Responsive) These individuals are described as outgoing and more dramatic.

Amiable: (Ask Assertive + Emote Responsive) These individuals are seen as easy going and supportive.

Analytical: (Ask Assertive + Control Responsive) These individuals are described as serious and more exacting.

Historical Development

In 1964 Dr. David W Merrill and Roger Reid began research to create a model that could predict the success in selling and management careers [1]. What the partners ended up discovering was that people's behaviors and actions are consistent. The original Social Style model was worked on by Dr. James W. Taylor, who at the time was a staff psychologist at Martin Corporation (later Martin Marietta) in Denver. Dr. Merrill obtained the rights to use the Social Styles ModelTM (whose rights are now owned by The TRACOM Group, a workplace performance company specializing in Interpersonal Skills Training and Performance Consulting, formerly a division of Reed Business Information, whose parent company is Reed Elsevier).

New Developments

In 1992 Leadership Development Associates created the Social Style Survey which replaced the 150 adjective "yes" or "no" computer based assessment. In 2004, Tracom followed suit with behavior-based statements instead of the adjective checklist which proved less valid and less reliable. It continues to use the Assertiveness, Responsiveness and Versatility scales but can now provide an even greater depth of information about an individual's behavior - especially his/her Versatility - and is much more accurate, especially when translated into a variety of languages.

Robert Bolton, and Dorothy Grover Bolton (President and vice president of Ridge Consultants) wrote on and expanded upon the Social Style model, and introduced four subtypes for each style, which are blends with other styles ("Amiable-Analytical", etc.) This results in 16 types that closely match the 16 types of the MBTI.[2]

Similar Instruments

There are a number of other similar "four type" instruments, using the same two factors of expressiveness and task/people orientation. One is The Platinum Rule Personality or "Behavioral Styles" of Dr. Tony Alessandra.[2] Its two factors are "Indirect/Direct", corresponding to assertiveness, and "Open/Guarded" corresponding to responsiveness. The resulting four types are "the Director", "the Socializer", "the Relater", and "the Thinker". (Alessandra also similarly blended the styles into 16 types).

Another is the Interaction Styles of Dr. Linda V. Berens, PhD: "In Charge", "Get Things Going", Behind the Scenes", and "Chart the Course". These are mapped to the MBTI 16-types model by pairing Introversion and Extroversion with a factor called "Informing and Directing" which loosely corresponds to Thinking and Feeling, and also indicates people vs. task focus.

Others include FIRO-B and a Five Temperaments theory based on it. Both use scales of "expressed" and "wanted" or "responsive" behavior, but the two factors span three areas, called Inclusion, Control and Affection. Both five-temperament theory and Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (which also uses the "assertiveness" scale along with "cooperativeness") add an additional "moderate" score in both dimensions, creating a fifth behavioral or personality type.


The TRACOM Group

Wilson Learning


  1. Reid, Roger H. and Merril, David, W. Personal Styles & Effective Performance. ISBN 0-8019-6899
  2. Alessandra, Tony. The Platinum Rule [1]
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