We all struggle to communicate with others from time to time, don’t we? In general, our ‘go-to’ process is pretty much the assumption that folks around us think and will process information the same way we do. We, in turn, want to be understood and appreciated. So what do we do?
These days there are all sorts of online assessments available for understanding who the person you are talking to “is” — and many of these tests require that they have completed some version of an in-depth questionnaire related to personality. But what about the day to day stuff? You can’t actually ask your new friend what their type is before you start talking, can you?
My solution is to go a bit old school with this. At least back to the last century! I frankly don’t know where I got it, or who gave it to me — but I have this magenta mimeographed piece of paper with a four-part Matrix of personality types on it.
I have used it for years to understand co-workers, bosses, friends, lovers…you name it! And it still works today. It’s not super science. It’s pretty simple. There are four basic styles listed: Promoter, Controller, Supporter, and Analyzer.
It doesn’t mean we can’t hang around in the other spots, it’s really about the one that is our natural go-to place. Back in the day, I even used this Matrix as the basis for a workshop with a youth group. I changed the categories to birds to help the kids with connecting to the model and to just make it more fun:
- Promoter =Peacock
- Controller = Eagle
- Supporter = Lovebird
- Analyzer = Owl
The kids all sorted into their groups minus one young woman who everyone said was a Peacock. She didn’t like that idea. She strutted up to me and my co-leader — stuck her hand on her hip and announced is a very loud voice: “I am NOT a Peacock!” and we in unison said: “Oh, yes you are!”
The groups then had to create a skit about their “bird” and find a song to sing about it. Pretty fun stuff! I bring up the youth group event because in that process they also noticed that even though they were all the same type, they needed all four energies to get anything done. If memory serves it was the Owls who sure figgered that part out first — just showing their Analyzer talent.
So when you need to be really effective in your conversation with someone see if you can’t sort out their basic “type”. Here are some clues to look for:
- Promoters: are charming, creative, enthusiastic. The Promoter’s most common question is: Who? On the downside, they can be pushy, insincere and lack follow-through. If cornered they tend to throw a tantrum. Often found working in sales. The secret with Promoters is that they really don’t know why they are successful! They are just busy spreading their beautiful Peacock tails and strutting!
- Controllers: are efficient, driven and results-oriented. The Controller’s most common question is: What? On the downside, they can be brassy, insensitive and overbearing. If corned they tend to become tyrannical. CEO’s often fit into this category. A Controller’s secret is that they want to get things done, quickly and efficiently. The Eagle has landed with speed and agility.
- Supporters: are cooperative, friendly and accepting. The Supporter’s most common question is: Why? On the downside, they can be passive/aggressive, indecisive and smothering. If cornered they comply. Often they perform well in an assistant role. The Supporter’s secret isn’t really a secret, they want everyone to get along. These Lovebirds are cooing in the corner, just waiting for you to join them.
- Analyzers: are thorough, exacting and persistent. The Analyzer’s most common question is: How? On the downside, they can be apathetic, picky and stubborn. If cornered they avoid and clam up. Often the Engineer or Bookkeeper. An Analyzer’s secret is that they absolutely do not want to ever make a mistake, so they keep analyzing. Behind the Owl’s serious demeanor is a desire to not be embarrassed.
What type are you? How about your best friend? Can you see that just understanding how the other person relates can make your communication more effective?
Give this matrix a chance, and if you’d like more detail I can send you a copy of the original mimeographed page that started this whole thing!
Shell Tain, the Untangler