Working with different personalities by Dan White

By Guest Contributor Dan White

Author of The Soft Skills Book, Dan White explains if what different personalities there could be and how to deal with them in the workplace.

There are few walks of life that do not involve interacting with other people. Humans are social by nature, and much of our species’ success has come from forming social bonds and collaborating for mutual benefit. This is as true today as it was 52 million years ago, when our ancestors discovered they were safer from predators if they formed groups.

To collaborate well with others, you need to understand that people differ immensely in what they find important and what motivates them. You’ll need to modify what you say and do when dealing with different types of people if you want to influence them.

We’re all aware that getting to know someone well can be fascinating, but it also helps you build strong relationships. Under- standing what people care about allows you to connect with them personally and talk about things in a way they’ll find relevant and interesting.

However, there will be occasions when you’ll be dealing someone you haven’t had a chance to get to know — for example, when pitching for new business. You may have to guess what their priorities and preferences are based on their behaviours. In these situations, it’s helpful to consider people in terms of four basic personality types. Few people fit any one type perfectly, but it’s a useful way of framing how you might want to approach them.













Here are some common characteristics of each type:


  • Measured and logical
  • Precise and succinct
  • Refers to facts and figures
  • Quiet and less inclined to make small talk
  • May be less tactile
  • Uncomfortable with prolonged eye contact





  • Authoritative and formal
  • Direct and to the point
  • Tends to be impatient
  • Socially confident
  • Has a firm handshake
  • Good at maintaining eye contact




  • Energetic and enthusiastic
  • Creative and inspirational
  • Keen to explore ideas
  • Talkative and animated
  • Tactile
  • Smiles a lot




  • Welcoming and friendly
  • Willing to explore emotions
  • Invites social banter
  • Brings people into conversations
  • Tends to be more tactile
  • Warm handshake





Although people don’t fall neatly into these categories, being aware of how individuals differ can help you look out for these traits and adjust your style of interaction accordingly. The kinds of adjustments you can make are explored in the next section.



We should always try to be our natural selves and avoid putting on an act just to impress or manipulate others. However, people differ in what they care about and respond to and trying to accommodate these differences makes collaboration easier. It’s also respectful and considerate. The ability to gauge people’s preferences and accommodate them is especially important when dealing with those who are markedly different from you, such as people from distant cultures or another generation.

The above section has described the behaviours that signal a particular personality type. This section explores what you can do to get along well with each type.



Someone who takes time to it GET IT RIGHT prides themself on their rigour and diligence. It pays to invite them to provide the checks and balances — for example, by reviewing a project’s feasibility or estimating costs. They may be socially reserved, and if you sense that they are, respect their personal space and don’t rush them into pressurized social situations.



If you identify someone itching to GET IT DONE, they probably prefer to be in charge. So, allow them to take the lead if it’s appropriate to do so. If you share this trait with a superior, be careful not to antagonize them by competing for attention and control. People who express this trait like to get on with things and make decisions quickly, so be brief and to the point when dealing with them and keep the chit-chat to a minimum.



People who like to GET SOMEWHERE NEW tend to have lots of ideas they want to share and discuss, so let them take centre stage from time to time. Allow them to share their stream of thoughts out loud if they want to; this helps them express their ideas properly. Any promising ideas can be captured and vetted for further development.



People who want everyone to GET ON WELL are interested in understanding and catering to individuals’ needs and desires, so give them the opportunity to express their caring side. To collaborate effectively, it’s important to listen to them and establish where they’re coming from so you can build a rapport.

The grid below illustrates how to develop strong relationships with people, depending on their personalities.




DAN WHITE is a marketing and insights innovator. His frameworks and visualizations have influenced generations of marketers via the methodologies they have informed, including the world’s leading brand measurement, media evaluation and copy-testing systems. This unique blend of expertise ensures that every piece of advice offered in The Smart Marketing Book and The Soft Skills Book is based on robust evidence and a wealth of practical experience.




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