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Building Relationships by Flexing Your Style

Building Relationships by Flexing Your Style

Written by Pamela Valencia, Solutions Consultant, CPP Professional Services

One of my favorite type booklets is Introduction to Type® and Selling by Susan Brock. In the booklet, Brock gives some wonderful examples of behavioral clues to personality preferences and of ways people can match their sales style to their customers’ preferences. Selling may have a negative connotation for some, but what is selling truly? At its core, it is about relationship building. When we are working with, living with, communicating with one another, we are building relationships. Ideally, we are valuing and appreciating not only our similarities but also the differences between us. Sometimes we don’t “connect” with certain individuals and may be left wondering why, possibly replaying scenarios in our head or dismissively hoping we don’t have to deal with those people ever again. However, by changing our behavior just a little, we may be able to bridge the gap and make a connection after all.


In her booklet, Brock refers to changing your behavior as adapting to your customer. I call it flexing your style. Flexing your style can be as simple as starting with your most comfortable self and then, in response to behavioral cues, gradually adjusting to better reflect the other person’s style. Did he frown slightly or move away from or toward you? Is she more soft-spoken than you are? We don’t need to mirror one another, just modify our behavior so that it comes closer to matching the other person’s style (maybe use a softer voice, actively listen without interrupting, add more eye contact). Nothing dramatic is needed. It is important to remember that our preferences don’t change; however, we can choose our behavior. It does take practice, energy, and awareness, but if the relationship is important, then isn’t it worth the effort?


According to Jungian theory, while we are awake, we are doing one of two things: taking in information (using Sensing, S, or Intuition, N) or making decisions about that information (using Thinking, T, or Feeling, F). This results in four patterns associated with how people’s minds work—ST, SF, NF, and NT. Recognizing that one of these patterns is our favorite, most preferred pattern, there are three different ways we can flex our style to better connect with others.


People who prefer Sensing and Thinking (ST) may come across as “the bottom-line” people because they are interested in facts and a logical step-by-step approach. They tend to be specific and to the point, and to use fewer personal words. To adjust your style to accommodate someone with ST preferences, focus on the practical. Try to stay away from analogies and metaphors in your discussions. Instead, provide the first step, next step, etc., and keep it short and sweet. Be prepared to be tested on your knowledge (whatever you are discussing). If ST is not in your personality type code, keep in mind that people with ST preferences don’t tend to focus on the personal. In other words, be straightforward, brief, and factual.


People who prefer Sensing and Feeling (SF)  focus on the personal impact (on themselves and others) of the facts and want to provide “practical help for people.” They want to establish a relationship first and will often tell stories about why something is personally important. Flexing your style to better connect with people who have SF preferences means remembering that loyalty and the relationship are important to them. As you communicate, be friendly and open, listen carefully, and give practical information. If SF is not in your personality type code, try to flex your communication style in a way that demonstrates concern for the personal impact of opinions and ideas.


People who prefer Intuition and Feeling (NF) tend to focus on “possibilities for people.” They like to paint a picture with words and are values driven. Taking a big-picture view of the future and of what could be, they tend to look beyond the facts and want to know the implications. They like to brainstorm with ideas and are easily bored by detail. If people with NF preferences feel that their views are not being heard or considered, they can become detached from the process. If NF is not in your personality type code, try flexing your style to include long-term possibilities and recognize that collaboration, cooperation, and supportive language are important.


People who prefer Intuition and Thinking (NT) tend to focus on “possibilities for systems.” They like to create or retool systems for greater efficiency. They enjoy complexity, critiques, and evaluations to improve processes and systems. The NT style may at times come across as blunt or impersonal when the discussion is on perspectives or ideas. People with these preferences may prefer to present “people information” in a situational and matter-of-fact way. If NT is not in your personality type code, try flexing your style to recognize critique as a way to make the process better, not as a personal affront. People with NT preferences enjoy understanding how and why things work, possibilities, ideas, and theories. Consider flexing your style by presenting models and being willing to debate possibilities. Be prepared to question and debate perspectives.

Introduction to Type® and Communication by Donna Dunning also offers some excellent ideas for flexing your style to better connect with others. Style flexing is a skill anyone can develop, but keep in mind that it does take energy and practice.

“People who are the very best at anything got that way because they had a strong desire to excel. What truly differentiates the expert performers from the good performers is hours of deliberate practice.” – Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge

One Comment

  1. I enjoyed the article, as communication major it fits very well.

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