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  • Writer's pictureL. Darryl Armstrong

Understanding Personality Styles: The Secret To Your Success In Getting Along with Challenging Co-wo

By H.J.D. Stimpson – Special Correspondent

Behold the salesman stereotype-the smooth-talking glad-hander wearing a flashy tie, white belt, and sporty shoes with a routine of jokes to entertain all of his prospects.

Expressive people like to talk and laugh but it’s important to relate to people on their own terms, which is the very basis of understanding public relations. Therefore, to be truly successful in business you must learn to size up your customers. Some of them may just want numbers-just the data, without a lot of fluff. With analytical clients, you have to learn to sit on your hands and keep your mouth shut.

If you apply these principles you will be more successful in all your relationships.

You can’t treat all people alike.  You must evaluate them as individuals and in terms of their personality types. Then deal with the situation according to their needs, not yours.

This approach works for hostage negotiators, sales people, and just folks like you and me, according to Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong, a public relations counselor and consultant from Eddyville, Ky.

Armstrong and his wife, Kay operate ARMSTRONG and Associates ( a consulting and counseling firm located on Lake Barkley in western Kentucky.

“The key is being versatile and resilient, so that you can adapt your style to someone else’s style to achieve a mutual outcome,” Armstrong says.

“People like to interact with people who are like them and who understand how to develop rapport and sustain it. Most of the time for example in sales, you’re not selling your product, because there’s little difference between products. You’re selling your relationship with the client. If I’m a salesperson and I can get you to like me and trust me, then you’re probably going to buy from me. If I am a hostage negotiator and can develop rapport with you I may be able to resolve the situation amicably,” Armstrong says.

Like converts testifying to the congregation, his clients frequently refer to Armstrong’s lectures and workshops to back up this personality-style approach to predicting, preventing or resolving conflicts, or even selling Bibles!

“It’s worked for me for 35 years,” Armstrong chuckles. Armstrong is a trained behavioral psychologist with degrees from Murray State University and AIH and has applied his training in the government and corporate world for more than 35-years.

“Sometimes in the most difficult of situations,” he adds.

Forever the puzzle – but what fun you can have analyzing the situation

Using a “social style” four quadrant matrix with a horizontal and a vertical axis, Armstrong has his clients place themselves in quadrants as “drivers,” “expressives,” “amiables,” or “analyticals.”

Social Styles Quadrants

The horizontal line denotes degrees of responsiveness; the vertical line degrees of assertiveness. At the top of the matrix in terms of non-responsiveness are the controlling drivers and the task-oriented analyticals.

Below the horizontal line are those more responsive to people-the assertive expressives and the nonassertive amiables.

Armstrong says social styles are easy to spot.

Amiables and expressives wear warm colors and furnish their offices with personal items-family photos or kids’ artwork. Their work areas are often littered with papers. If there’s room, they may shove their desks against a wall and sit next to visitors.

Analyticals and drivers dress conservatively and use their furniture as barriers or space dividers. Art prints or sales charts decorate their walls.

“Drivers may not have anything on their desks except a calendar or clock, because they’re very time-oriented,” Armstrong says.

“Color preferences in cars, as well as dress, are cues to personality,” he continues.

“Drivers and analyticals like neutrals, black, and ivory, while amiables and expressives are more into pigment. Amiables like softer colors, while expressives prefer bold ones.”

In class and his many workshops, Armstrong has his participants do self-evaluations to identify their personal styles. Then they practice various situations.

“Students do videotaped presentations, and we view them in class so that we can learn from each other,” he says.

“The funniest videos are those with two drivers: It’s like watching a Ping-Pong match.” 

Personality styles emerge at birth or shortly after

Armstrong says that personality types emerge soon after birth.

“One of my ‘daughters’ is an analytical driver with a strong amiable backup, so I have to deal with her differently from the way I deal with the other ‘daughter’, who is a mixture of both amiable and expressive,” he says.

Emphasizing that most people are mixtures of several styles, Armstrong says that sales representatives can draw on different elements of their own personalities in dealing with others.

 “To be successful in sales, presentations, surviving mergers of companies or everyday conflict resolution, you can’t stick completely to your own personal style all of the time and be successful. It just doesn’t work that way. Resiliency is critical to being successful in the business world,” he says.

“You must be resilient, adaptable and flexible. You must be able to ‘flex’ yourself to fit the situation.”

One of my colleagues, who graduated a few years ago with a business degree, says he was able to use what he learned very quickly.

The young man had been going to school full-time and working for the local cooperative as a marketing intern, Armstrong says.

He deals with some farmers, but mainly with their farm managers or their wives. He tell us that he found that identifying social styles is a great tool not just in selling, but also in developing and keeping good client relationships, which in turn prevents conflicts.

Cowboy boots and business suits and western shirts – don’t forget the bolo tie

Walk in Darryl Armstrong’s office, and it’s pretty easy to peg his social style as amiable and a driver with hints of being expressive. His smile is wide, his handshake firm. He wears jeans and dress T-shirts or other casual clothes often. Books and papers cover his desk and floor, and children’s drawings, awards and certificates, news clips and doodling adorn his walls. Yet, there is his “To Do List” right there in front of him keeping him focused on the tasks at hand. 

Armstrong notes that, in most interactive situations, social-style “signals” can work both ways.

For example, customers also often “read” salespeople, making it important for those trying to make sales to fit into customer environments. The way salespeople dress is the most obvious and immediate way to achieve this “fit.”

“When I worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, we had a senior manager from west Texas who wore cowboy boots and Western shirts,” Armstrong says.

“Everybody else wore business suits. However, he was always out in the field checking how things were going on the lines and he would have been totally out of place wearing suits. He would throw a sport jacket over his western shirt and jeans when he wanted to be more ‘formal.'”

What if you sell John Deere tractors but have an afternoon appointment at the bank to get a loan?

“Adapt, be flexible and resilient,” Armstrong says.

“Maybe you can wear khaki pants and a knit shirt at a farm, but put a jacket in the car to wear to the bank. Or, if you’re wearing a suit while at the bank, remove the jacket and tie, then roll up your sleeves at the farm.”

Once you learn to do it – it’s like riding a bike

Armstrong says that evaluating social styles becomes automatic in almost every situation-business or social.

“It’s almost like riding a bicycle,” he says. “Once you learn the basic skills, you do it without thinking.”

It’s always important, he adds, to remain open to social-style cues as situations evolve.

Never, he cautions, assume that you know someone’s social style beforehand.

“The other day, I had an appointment with the vice president for network operations at a major corporation,” he says. “I assumed I was going to be talking with an analytical. He wasn’t.”

“Every detail of your person, every nuance of your speech-all of those signals combine to create an important impression in a client’s mind,” Armstrong stresses.

“Those are the cues that can make or break a deal or help you prevent or resolve a conflict, get along better with your colleagues, make a sale, survive a merger, or resolve a hostage situation. It is all about understanding how psychology, consultative analysis and public relations fit together to make us successful in life and work,” Armstrong says.

You can learn more about the use of personality styles or arrange a consultation or workshop by contacting Dr. L. Darryl Armstrong toll-free at 1.888.340.2006 or at his website at

Until next time.

Dr. Darryl

L. Darryl Armstrong

ARMSTRONG and Associates

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