Understanding Behavioural Styles

What is your favourite colour? Is it blue, white, black or orange?  Some people believe that your choice of colour reflects your personality.  Those who choose “blue” tend to be people who are cautious and prefer life that is peaceful.  “White” tends to be chosen by those who have a strong need for perfection. The task-focused ones would prefer “black” while the sociable ones prefer “orange”.  

I wish that life could be so simple … If we could tell the personality based on one’s chosen colours, conflicts would greatly be reduced.  Having said that, fret not as we can still get down to the CORE of a person.  Then, we would be able to work with their likes and dislikes and thus manage conflict.  Before finding out more about the CORE, let’s look at the premise for handling different personalities and relationships – Aware-Accept-Adapt.

First of all, we need to be AWARE that everyone is different.  Let’s listen to what one manager has to say - “Why can’t Peter be like the rest?  He always questions me in everything that I do.  Whenever I share with him one bright idea, he will tear the idea apart and ‘shoot’ me with millions of questions.  I wish that he would do as per my instructions.”  As a result of the differences in personality and viewpoints, conflict is a norm when working with people.  In life, we cannot expect any two people to be exactly the same.  Everyone has a unique “thumb print” and personality. 

Since everyone is different, this would mean that we should ACCEPT people for who they are.  Often, we would have heard of comments like “I wish that he has a heart.” or “I wish I could make him less of a perfectionist.”   Ask any married couple, they will probably tell you that they’ve given up the hope of being able to change their spouse.  They may even tell you that the next best alternative to changing their spouse, is to literally find another spouse.  Let’s face reality.  No one can change anyone.  The only way for anyone to change is if he wants to change himself, ie. if he sees the need to change.  Therefore, we should accept people for who they are.  Lest, we will feel very disappointed when we expect people to “change for the better” but they don’t.

What should we do when we cannot change the personality of others but we don’t like what we see?  If that person is a stranger, it would be easy.  All that we need to do is walk away.  However, we cannot walk away from our family members, loved ones, colleagues, bosses, etc as they are important people in our lives.  On occasions, we may find ourselves walking out on these people only to walk right back to them later.  We can do this once, twice or even thrice.  However, in the long run, we will end up asking ourselves the question “How long can I do this for?”  If we want to survive through the relationship without walking out, we need to ADAPT to their styles.  This is because people like people who are like themselves.  When we adapt to their styles, it means that we speak and act in a manner that is similar to them – ie, speak their language.  Soon, they’ll feel that you’re on their side, they will begin to like you and soon adapt to your style as well. 

Now that we know the importance of adapting, let’s move on to learn how to adapt to the 4 different personalities – Conventional Christine, Observant Oliver, Resolute Rebecca, Expressive Elvis.  


CONVENTIONAL Christine loves it when things are left as they are. When put in a situation where change is required, she tends to resist the change especially when it is last-minute or drastic. However, as she is peace-loving, she will give in to anyone just to avoid conflict.

How do you handle her?

- Give her ample notice when introducing change. Avoid statements like “I want it now.” or “I need it yesterday.”
- Ensure a harmonious relationship / environment.


OBSERVANT Oliver is very detailed and analytical in everything that he does and says. As a result, he tends to be a perfectionist as well. He maintains high standards, and will check, check and check his work.

How do you handle him?

- Give him lots of details
- Ensure that information or work done is error-free.


RESOLUTE Rebecca is task-oriented, and believes that anything and everything is possible. She tends to have a strong need to take charge and make quick decisions. As a result, she might be perceived as one who has no ‘feeling’. In reality, she has ‘feelings’ within her but she is able to manage her emotions to achieve results.

How do you handle her?

- Be task-focused. Avoid small talk on personal matters.
- Give her the goals / objectives and trust that she will get the job done.


EXPRESSIVE Elvis generally has a positive outlook in life. He is usually described as friendly and sociable. In addition, he generally demonstrates enthusiasm and is animated while interacting with others.

How do you handle him?

- Focus on building relationship. Instead of talking about work only, spend time to find out about him on a personal basis.
- Compliment him and be sensitive when giving him feedback.

Have fun discovering more about the people around you.  Good luck in building a wonderful relationship with them!

Dolly Leong, 2011
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