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Skillful communication: how to identify and adapt to the four behavioural styles

16th June, 2020   •   4 min

As children, we are told to treat others as we want to be treated.

But surely there’s a problem with this well known life lesson. Does everyone really want to be treated as we want to be treated?

No. People want to be treated how they want to be treated.

Just as each of us has our own unique preferences for where we like to go on holiday, the books we love, and the food we enjoy for lunch – we each like to communicate in a different way.

Do you send the same style of email to everyone you work with? Do you always take the same approach in meetings? Do you begin all of your phone calls the same way?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are not adapting to those around you.

Being able to do this is essential. The more we can identify and adapt to the different styles, the better we can develop strong and fruitful relationships with our teams, clients, family and friends.

So, here’s how to do it.

Identifying and adapting to the four different behaviour styles

Read through these words, and choose the colour you identify with the most.

These four columns map onto four different behaviour styles. Knowing these styles holds the key to good communication.

There are no good or bad styles – there are only differences and all styles can achieve success.

  • Red is driver
  • Yellow is expressive
  • Green is amiable
  • Blue is analytic

The colour you picked is a very basic indication of which style you associate with. The best way to know which style you portray is to ask your team and those around you to identify your characteristics.

You may identify with words in a few different columns. However, although people tend to be a mixture of the four, one style tends to be dominant. The overarching characteristics of each can be considered together using this diagram.



Our red drivers are okay with risk, outgoing and task focused. They are associated with the lion, as they are fiercely loyal. Driver types are confident, fast paced and direct. They make decisions quickly and dislike time waste.

In a meeting, our driver would be the one pushing the meeting forward, in control, keen to set actions and to clearly see how the results of the meeting are going to benefit the bigger picture.


If you don’t communicate well with a driver, you risk losing them.

Always be clear and direct when communicating with a driver. Make them feel like they are in control of the meeting and leading the conversation. Be aware that even though the action or purpose of your conversation should come first, drivers still want to build a relationship after the business has been done.

Challenge them when it’s going to benefit the bigger picture and earn their respect.



Our yellow expressives are okay with risk, outgoing and people focused. They are associated with a peacock, as they love to share their enthusiasm with others. Expressive types are idea generators and visionaries. They like stories, are energetic and love to talk. They can sometimes lack attention to detail.

In a meeting, our expressive would be the one who would start by telling an interesting story about something that had happened that morning, who is keen to discuss and share ideas, give long responses to your questions and are optimistic about the result reached.


We want to show expressives interest and support in their ideas and give them the time to talk these through. Since they move between ideas quickly, it’s important to add structure to the communication we have with them to keep the meeting on track.

Absorb their ideas and share them back with clear action points and a plan going forward.



Our green amiables are risk averse, reserved and people focused. They are associated with the dolphin as they are excellent team players. Amiable types are empathetic, relationship focused, supportive and are adept listeners. They are resistant to change and avoid conflict.

In a meeting, our amiable would be the one who has prepared notes, is asking questions, showing interest in others ideas and making sure everyone is comfortable with their role in the meeting and actions set.


Often, as they are such great listeners, we can end up doing a lot of talking and not focusing on the amiable type enough. It’s important to ask them questions, encourage their ideas, show them you care about them by remembering details from conversations and ask for their help.

Give them time to consider any changes and involve others in the decision making process.



Our blue analytic is risk averse, reserved and task focused. They are associated with the elephant as they always remember the detail. Analytic types are detail and fact orientated, they like structure, will take time over decisions, are systematic as well as thorough and precise. They don’t do things off the cuff.

In a meeting, the analytic type would be the one keen to understand the evidence behind what you’re saying, asking you challenging questions, studying the facts and figures, following the meeting agenda and noticing a mistake in one of the resources shared.


We want to demonstrate that we are prepared for analytic types – so sharing resources, sharing research and paying attention to detail are all important. Avoid using fluffy language and when writing to them, use structure and bullet points. Make sure to ask them for their opinion.

Give them time to make a decision they are confident with, and reassure them that they are making a good decision.

Think about one person who you find difficult to work with. Would you associate them with a different style to you? Could your relationship be improved by adapting to their style?

Identifying the styles in your team and client base will allow you to communicate them in the way that they like and create excellent working relationships. Give it a try, and if you’d like to know more about identifying the styles in your team, get in touch.