Interpersonal Style Type

The chart below is for your use in determining the usual personal interpersonal style type with which you are most comfortable for yourself. Your usual style falls into one of the four quadrants of the chart below. Your task is to choose the combination with which you are most comfortable and with which you most identify personally. Once you have chosen the combination that best describes you, that quadrant can then be seen as an approximate description of your style, your way of relating within your family.



You will tend to experience most difficulties with those family members whose styles are best described by the quadrant diagonal from yours. You will have the next level of difficulty with those family members whose styles are best characterized as falling in the same quadrant as yours. The least difficulty will be experience with family members whose styles are best characterized by the quadrants adjacent to yours.



At the bottom of each quadrant is a short phrase that characterizes the four styles. 'Street Fighters' will have the least difficulty with 'Cheerleaders' and 'Pacifiers.' Street Fighters will have more difficulty with other Street Fighters but will experience the highest difficulty trying to deal with 'Unanimity Seekers.'



Once you have located your style, determine the styles of other family members. When you are having difficulties, do not take it personally. Remember that it is just a matter of style. Things will go better with dictators if you encourage them to be assertive and give them more opportunities to be decisive. Be very selective about those points at which you choose to be confrontive, insist on your rights, or have to have things your way. The idea is not to 'roll over and play dead.' The idea is to find opportunities for the dictator to be decisive, assertive, spontaneous, energetic, and flexible, with ample opportunity for him/her to feel like he/she won the streetfight. Use the same approach for improving relationships when you are having difficulties with family members who reflect styles from any of the other three quadrants. As a trade-off, encourage them to create opportunities for you to exercise your style more freely and purposefully.
















Facilitator/Agitator



  • Helpful
  • Loyal
  • Responsible
  • Dependable
  • Consistent



(Pacifier)

Dictator/Militator



  • Decisive
  • Assertive
  • Spontaneous
  • Energetic
  • Flexible



(Street Fighter)

Gravitator/Commentator



  • Playful
  • Gentle
  • Open
  • Patient
  • Accepting



(Unanimity Seeker)

Levitator/Precipitator



  • Involved
  • Positive
  • Relaxed
  • Attractive
  • Supportive



(Cheer Leader)


Discussion



This activity begins to consolidate the skills and insights developed through the development of multidimensional style, understanding of group roles, and consideration of the elements of interpersonally effective relationships. Most clients will be comfortable with the forced choice nature of the activity, although some will not. For those individuals, you will need to emphasize the concept of approximation in relationship to the style type and encourage the individual to pick that quadrant that most approximates his style. For a few individuals, it will become clear that they do not reflect any consistent style and spend significant portions of their family energy moving from quadrant to quadrant in terms of style and self-projection. These individuals may be thought of as chameleons or style switchers. The major problem they are experiencing is a significant lack of consistency and predictability. They are, rather, simply trying to accommodate to the needs, whims, and projections of others. This by itself becomes a focus for consultation.



For most individuals who are old enough and reflect enough conceptual development, however, identifying with one of the quadrants will be something they are able to do rather quickly and spontaneously. At the individual level, it is important for you to focus in terms of the extent to which the individual interpersonal style of the client manifests itself as a game as discussed in an earlier activity. Assuming that the client functions in a relatively game free manner, you may encourage an expansion of the perspective from which the activity is viewed.



At a family level, identification of the styles of each family member may be accomplished in two ways. First, the individual client may simply indicate where he thinks each family member belongs in the grid. If two or more family members are participating in the process, they may discuss and try to involve themselves in-group decision making relative to the appropriate assignment of each family member. At those points where there is disagreement, sharing perceptions of each other will, itself, be a useful intrafamily process. In addition, your observations add an outside perspective to the family discussion.



Importantly, assignment of a family member to one of the quadrants does not represent a value judgment. Being in one quadrant is not better or worse than being in another. The key is simply recognizing and owning one's personal interpersonal style.



Focusing on the pacifiers, it is important to see that their being helpful, loyal, responsible, dependable, and consistent adds a level of stability and cooperation within the family that is a very positive, systemic factor. Their orientation to pacifying has the effect of minimizing conflict and tension and increases the ability of the family to get along and get things done on a day to day basis.



Alternatively, the orientation toward pacifying works against their accepting personal responsibility at times and represents a somewhat short-sighted orientation to problems, difficulties, and significant family issues.



The street fighter's inclination to be decisive, assertive, spontaneous, energetic, and flexible has the effect of moving family processes and activities along. Decisions are made, points of view are expressed, participation occurs as a function of the situation or circumstances, energy is high, and the family is able to change directions, change plans, and respond to what is going on at the moment. Alternatively, the street fighter may be somewhat inconsiderate of the needs and interest of others. May somewhat overwhelm or overpower other members of the family, and may be seen as not able to stick to his ideas, convictions, beliefs, or feelings. The predominate impression may be of an insensitive, self-serving approach to family life.



The gravitator's orientation to unanimity seeking is furthered through his playful, gentle, open, patient, accepting approach to other members of the family. Each member of the family feels acknowledged, understood, and important. The positive effect is a comfortable and safe environment for all. Alternatively, the unanimity seeker may be viewed as not really understanding the significance or seriousness of problems or difficulties, not being able to be tough and make the hard decisions when that is necessary, unnecessarily gullible, and unable to protect his interests or those of the family.



The cheerleader's being involved, positive, relaxed, attractive, and supportive gives him a special place in the family. He is seen as invested in and committed to the life of the family, is always able to see the brighter side of things, is someone to whom others are drawn, and represents a source of continuing encouragement and affirmation. Alternatively, he may be viewed as someone who does not really understand the significance or seriousness of what is happening, as someone who's laid back and calm approach represents a lack of sincerity and caring, and as someone who thinks whatever anyone does or whatever is happening is alright. The effect is an impression of superficiality and insensitivity.



Each quadrant represents a somewhat habitual and natural style and is the style one would tend to project at points of increased stress, conflict, and tension. At these points, a somewhat stereotypic style becomes somewhat counter productive and may interfere with the smooth functioning of the family system. The key through Therapeutic Instruction is for individuals to recognize those points at which there is increased stress or tension and make some adjustment in or accommodation of style to increase interpersonal congruence and compatibility.



How is this done? The idea is uncomplicated but not always easy. The client looks at the specific situation and pattern of interaction and determines where each individual is functioning at the time. He then adjusts his style toward the quadrant that would result in the best fit while still serving the short and long term interest of the family system. For example, dictators move more in the facilitator direction or in the levitator direction, using the elements in the quadrant to which they are moving as guides or behavioral mandates in reference to how to best reflect more of that style. This might mean that the dictator consciously becomes more helpful or more positive, depending on whether he is moving toward the facilitator quadrant or the levitator quadrant.



Although people will find it nearly impossible to modify their styles toward the quadrant diagonal from theirs, they will usually have little difficulty modifying in the direction of a quadrant adjacent to theirs. The result is that style is not rigid and unresponsive to people and situations. It is, rather, both responsive to and sensitive to other family members and specific situations. This ability to appropriately modify style in turn becomes part of the style of the individual. He is and is seen as an individual who is sensitive, reasonably accommodating, and oriented to both his interest and the special needs and interest of other family members and of the family as a system.



By Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. March 23, 2017