What’s My Style?: Shades of Me - The Style

The Power of Understanding Yourself: The Key to Self-Discovery, Personal Development, and Being the Best You - Dave Mitchell 2019

What’s My Style?: Shades of Me
The Style

If you like it, drink it. If you don’t like it, drink it fast!

Dave Mitchell before every wine-tasting event

In the world of winemaking, you will often hear the term style. It most often relates to “new world” — a style of winemaking that emphasizes the flavor of the fruit (grape) — or “old world,” a style of winemaking that emphasizes the sense of place from where the wine comes (terroir). The same varietal of wine, say, Cabernet Sauvignon, can be extracted in very different ways based on the style of winemaking. The same is true about people.

There are few elements of our self that are more intriguing to us than our interactive style. By the time we reach adulthood, nearly every one of us has completed some style inventory like the MBTI, DISC, True Colors, and so on. We have been told we are an INFJ — an introverted intuitive feeling judger, or a High D with a corporate hook C, or a “green who gets red under pressure.” My previous book, The Power of Understanding People, focused exclusively on style. And although it would appear to be shameless self-promotion, I do recommend picking up a copy of that book. It will help guide you through a more thorough explanation of the concept of interactive style and allow you to discover a Hollywood movie character description of the way you interact with the world and other people. (Yes, my assessment reports in Hollywood movie characters — which I happen to think is a whole lot more fun than a letter or color.)

I know not everyone wants to go buy another book. And for those who have read The Power of Understanding People, I don’t want to “till old soil,” as they say. The last book focused on how to better understand and relate to other people; this book is directed inward. So, while there may be a little review for anyone who has already read The Power of Understanding People, this chapter will offer both a deeper and broader examination of interactive style as it relates to understanding yourself. For those who read The Power of Understanding People, I strongly recommend reviewing this information for two reasons. You will discover more about your style strengths, opportunities, and blind spots. After all, it has been five years since I wrote that book and I have gotten smarter since then. Further, the application is different this time—and, it is possible for people to evolve into different styles over time. For those reasons, it can be beneficial to you to start the process again. I have endeavored to limit any unnecessary redundancy.

To begin, you will need to complete the assessment from The Power of Understanding People. As an educator, I want to make this easy, so I have included that assessment in this book. Please read the directions carefully and keep this one very important caveat in mind: it is essential that you are honest with yourselfwhen you complete the assessment. There are no right or wrong answers. Your values and character are not being evaluated. Move quickly through the assessment. When you are done, total each of the four columns. To make sure you have done the assessment correctly, total each of the four column totals. That number must be 120. If your four column totals don’t add up to 120, something is wrong. Reread the instructions and try again. If you still don’t get 120, sheepishly invite a friend with better math skills to look at your assessment.


When you are through ranking the items, add up all the numbers in the “a” column and total them at the bottom of the column. Then do the same for the “b,” “c,” and “d” columns. Finally, add the four column totals. That number must be 120.

© Copyright 1997, 2004, 2013, 2018 the Leadership Difference, Inc.


The four columns of this assessment correspond to the four interactive styles described in The Power of Understanding People. For a full understanding of how these style impact leadership, selling, customer service and interpersonal relationship, I recommend checking that book out. But for extracting Me, we will explore what your scores say about you. Remember, this assessment is meant as a tool for metacognition and self-exploration. It is not comprehensive. Let it guide your process but feel free to expand beyond what the results may suggest when you feel it is appropriate.

Understanding Interactive Style

You might be wondering, What is interactive style, anyway? Well, our minds are very complicated. We have learned to think the way we do based on millions of life experiences that we have amassed. As a result, we have created an approach to cognition that is uniquely ours — our own delusion, if you will. But, we still have an innate need to connect with each other. We yearn for companionship and connectedness to others. How does a uniquely delusional creature connect with others of its species? There must be ties that bind — or as Carl Jung would say, “a collective unconscious.” Our interactive styles are a form of this. They are a unifying cognitive element in a sea of individuality. They allow us to effectively communicate, build relationships, and understand one another. Just as the individual grapes hang together in a cluster in the vineyard, so, too, do we as humans.

My model consists of four interactive style schemas: Romantic, Warrior, Expert and Mastermind. Each reflects a different sensitivity to the world. Each communicates in a slightly different way. Each corresponds to its own behavioral cues. Each has its own strengths and vulnerabilities. And while we all possess all four of these interactive style schemas, understanding your own preferences can help you better understand yourself.

The style we prefer the most provides the easier vehicle for connecting with others (as reflected by the thickest connection). Our secondary preference provides a comfortable alternative when our primary preference is less effective within the dynamic we find ourselves. It also adds breadth and complexity to our primary preference. The tertiary style is more challenging for us to use and offers a wonderful opportunity for personal development. Although its natural impact may be subtle, it can be developed to broaden our interactive dexterity. The least preferred style (quaternary preference) often reflects our most vulnerable context — the blind spot when dealing with others. Understanding the strengths and vulnerabilities relative to how we use, or don’t use, each of the four style preferences is essential to metacognition.

An examination of style provides useful information on recognizing your natural style strengths. This activity serves to educate you on how you can stretch yourself, develop your skills, expand your strengths, and be more aware of potential limitations and blind spots as they relate to communication and relationships. It is essential to extracting Me. Let’s figure out what your scores mean.

The lower your score, the higher your preference is for that style. That is important to keep straight, since we often associate larger numbers with greater weight. However, in the case of this assessment, low scores tell us our sensitivities; high scores tell us our blind spots. Before we get into the meaning of each column, let’s put some thought into the distribution of your preferences. I have found that the pattern of the totals is a meaningful metric when engaged in metacognition. Regardless of which column is your lowest and which is your highest, the range of your numbers is important. These ranges fall into three categories: dynamic, nuanced, and common. Also, there is the issue of ties.

The distribution of your numbers, specifically the range between your lowest scoring column and your highest scoring column, is analogous to the concept of tint, hue, and shade of a color. For example, blue is still considered blue even if it is dark blue, light blue, French blue, navy blue, or periwinkle. When I discuss the results of The Power of Understanding People assessment in seminars, I separate the attendees into four subgroups based on their lowest scoring column. To determine which of the dozen Hollywood styles best describe them, I introduce the second lowest scoring column. It is an easy, efficient and effective way to discuss style during a two to three-hour seminar wherein the goal is to better identify and understand how to deal with others. However, that approach is too simple for extracting Me. There is a difference in a person who scores closer to 12 than to 30 for their low score, for example. Further, a high score above 42 means something entirely different than a high score around 35. The pattern of the results is important.

Ties represent another issue. The mind is not binary. We can have an equal preference for two or even more styles. Although that alone isn’t complicated, the result of these dual style preferences can be. Using myself as an example, my preference for column B and column D are the same. For me, this reflects a slightly different thinking orientation when I am operating in a professional context versus a personal context. It is the old, “I am one way at work and a different way at home.” The difference is quite subtle, but meaningful. For me, it is just as important to examine how these two style preferences coexist as it is to understand how each defines me. My struggle with two equal preferences informs me as much as the influence of the two individually. In other words, I am both a product of each of those styles and the struggle between the two (more on that later). The bottom line is that the wealth of information that can be gleaned from the results of your assessment is huge. It will be important for you to really evaluate not just the order of your preferences, but the degree to which you prefer each relative to another. To aid in this labyrinth of self-examination, let’s discuss the three iconic distribution patterns.

The Dynamic Pattern

The bigger the difference between your lowest scoring column and your highest scoring column, the more dynamic your pattern is. For example, if you score below 18 in one column and above 42 in another column, you have a dynamic pattern since you have a large difference between your lowest score (primary preference) and your highest score (quaternary preference). Using the color analogy, your color is more pure, less affected by hue, tint, and shade. Relative to style preference, this dynamic pattern tends to create pure and consistent behavior. People with a dynamic pattern have more obvious (overt) behavioral cues. This means that they display patterns of behavior that others can more easily identify and predict. Additionally, people with dynamic patterns tend to have more consistent and reliable behavioral cues. Regardless of the context within which you interact with them, they tend to behave in the same way.

Consistency of behavior can be very important in your relationships with others in ways that you may not realize. I maintain that whether they like or dislike you, people prefer to form an opinion on you quickly rather than be unsure of how they feel. We can certainly change our opinions of others over time in long-term relationships; but for most of our relationships, we like to connect (or not) quickly. It is easier for people to determine if they like people when they possess dynamic patterns. Consequently, people with dynamic patterns often have enduring and satisfying personal relationships, since others know what to expect from them behaviorally. They are what they are, so to speak. If you like that style, you like them. If you dislike that style, you often self-select out quickly … with their full support. The exception to this can be family members and coworkers. In both relationships, you are forced to endure each other even if you would prefer not to. And often, over time, you forge relationships despite style differences — or sometimes, because of them.

As a quick aside here, on a topic that will be discussed more comprehensively later in the book, there is an important lesson about human interaction hidden in that last paragraph. We naturally tend to quickly assess whether we connect with someone or not and then create a cognitive schema for them that is positive, negative, or — for a little while maybe — neutral. It is the whole power of the first impression phenomenon. Of course, we make that “decision” initially based on scant knowledge of the full value of the other person. If, however, that person is a family member or a coworker, we continue to have exposure to them over time. This sustained relationship can eventually change our initial impression. Have you ever noticed that the most unusual people at your party — the ones that don’t fit the pattern of your other friends — are usually relatives and coworkers. That’s because your relationships with them transcended the ease of interaction of a casual friend and includes other qualities. With the growing tribalism and separatism that seems to have consumed our existence in recent times, I think it is valuable to remember the immense advantages of embracing diversity of thought and style.

Another consideration related to the range of totals in the assessment is the correlation to stress. The broader the distribution of numbers, the greater the potential stress when dealing with others. Individuals with a dynamic pattern have a greater potential stress load depending on with whom they are required to interact. Again, family gatherings aside, this stress is more likely to manifest itself at work, because we largely choose our personal relationships. Since few among us get to choose our coworkers and customers, it is at work that we often deal with people who think very differently from us. When fate is the friend of the dynamic pattern, and we get to interact primarily with people who share our style preferences, there will be very little stress. However, when the dynamic pattern is thrust into recurring interactions with people who think very differently than we do, the stress load can be quite high. If you have a dynamic pattern, you may find that your level of professional stress ebbs and flows in larger quantities than individuals who do not have this range of preference. There is nothing abnormal about that. In fact, being aware of these cycles of stress will help you engage in more effective strategies for managing those episodes of high duress.

As you consider the influence of your style preferences on understanding yourself, pay attention to both the heightened impact of your primary style and the effect of a relatively small orientation to your quaternary style. Both are clues to your own gifts, and possessing a dynamic pattern increases their impact. I think of a dynamic pattern as being like a wine that possesses very pronounced qualities, like a tannic Cabernet Sauvignon, a sweet Riesling, a particularly zesty Sauvignon Blanc, or a very fruity Zinfandel. Each of these wines has a wonderful quality that defines it, while also potentially alienating those drinkers who are averse to that characteristic.

Nuanced Pattern

The nuanced pattern is not the opposite of the dynamic pattern; as I am fond of saying, “There is no yin yang in Jung!” When the totals of the four columns are clustered in a tight range — like 27 to 33 from highest to lowest — your preferences become subtler. I think of people possessing this pattern as having a high level of cognitive dexterity as it relates to style. They experience less duress when shifting out of their primary style and can even comfortably employ their quaternary style for short periods of time. It’s like a color that is hard to discern or appears to change in different light. I have a pair of slacks that look gray sometimes, other times they look brown and, on a few occasions, even green. The nuanced pattern is like that.

If the individual with a nuanced pattern has effectively developed the ability to shift to the desired style appropriate for the situation, this dexterity can be very useful, particularly at work. As referenced earlier, work is where we are often required to interact with individuals whose styles differ from ours. The nuanced pattern allows for rapid, lower stress adaptation to others. Therefore, it is not unusual for nuanced patterned individuals to be effective in a wide variety of situations and with a broad cross-section of the population.

The challenge for this pattern may occur more in their personal lives. Nuanced patterns don’t display a consistent behavioral pattern, nor are their behavioral cues as overt. In short, they can be a tougher read for others. Although this characteristic is often a minor issue in more transactional professional relationships, it can frustrate family, friends, and personal acquaintances. There is also the distinct possibility that the nuanced patterned individual will manifest a different style throughout the week, if not the day. I had one wife tell me about her nuanced patterned husband, “I love morning him, evening him … not so much.” I chuckled. Briefly.

In a wine, a nuanced pattern is like your everyday table wine that goes with a wide variety of foods. It is versatile, comfortable, and easy to drink. Perhaps it is a blend of several different varietals. It may take a while to truly appreciate its complexities, but it is reliable in every situation.

Common Pattern

The third iconic distribution of the column totals is the common pattern. Although that doesn’t sound very sexy, the common pattern is so named because it is the most frequently occurring distribution. If your low score is 18—26 and your high score is 34—42, you have a common pattern. This means that your style preferences and accompanying duress with adjusting to others are right smack dab in the middle of the bell curve for all people. If you were a wine, it could be said of you that you have typicity. Typicity is the degree to which a wine reflects the varietal characteristics of the grape from which it is made. It’s a good thing.

Possessing a common pattern on your style preferences can still give you clues about understanding yourself. Examining your primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary style preferences is still very important. Less important is the range when examining a common pattern.

About Ties

One final scenario to explore as it relates to the distribution of your column totals is the phenomenon of ties. When administering the short version of the assessment during my seminars, I have found roughly 5—7% of attendees report a tie for the lowest scoring column (their primary preference). When completing the longer version in this chapter, that percentage drops to under 3%. It is completely possible, perhaps even likely, that an even longer assessment would virtually eliminate these ties. It is also completely possible that some people have the same level of preference for two (or three or — gasp — four) styles. I think the relative rarity of the phenomenon after only a 48 variable comparative analysis (a fancy term for the style assessment you just took) is more noteworthy when understanding ourselves. Even if one of the two styles that tied on the assessment is slightly preferable to you — and you can probably figure this out on your own — the influence of having two different style preferences of equal or near equal appeal is meaningful to extracting Me.

To find an example of this, I don’t have to look far. My B column and my D column scores are the same and are my two lowest totals. As I will explain in the following chapter, I have learned a lot about myself related to all three of these data points: my low B score, my low D score, and my tie between these two preferences. Based on my conversations with others who have reported out a tie for their primary preference, this can reflect a certain compartmentalization within your life. The most frequent of those is the work-life/home-life compartments. Some people use one of their style preferences more at work and the other at home. In this case, the person is not executing a radically different approach at work versus home but rather shifting one up and the other down.

I recommend that you return to this chapter after reading through the next four chapters. Sometimes it is difficult to understand a concept until you have been exposed to the whole of it. Besides, the next chapter will generate some tangible elements in your extraction. I know for me it is far easier to add in the details once the broad strokes have been brushed. Ask any winemaker about making wine and they will tell you, “it’s 40% lifting crap, 40% cleaning crap, and 20% tasting crap.” Or 20% doing shots — depending on the wine maker.