Knowing How to Deal with Different Communication Styles Will Make You a Better Leader

American Income Life Regional Sales Director Steve Kafkis

American Income Life Regional Sales Director Steve Kafkis

As leaders, we sometimes have a certain style or a certain way of handling our agency and situations. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always get the best out of our management teams and American Income Life agency sales force.

If you are able to match the communication style of each person in your agency, you will be on your way to understanding and being able to adjust to different styles. This is best accomplished by knowing and understanding the personality behavioral styles of everyone in your agency.

There are numerous examples of personality types. Some describe us by colors, by descriptive terms, and even animals.

One thing in common, our personality types tend to fall into a maximum of 16 types. The most common breakdown, and the easiest to remember, is of four personality types.

Talking within these four personality types will increase a leader’s ability to develop rapport with the agency and within their style of communication.

Note the traits involved with each personality…Controller, Promoter, Supporter, Analyst.


•  Accomplishment oriented
•  Assertive
•  Control oriented
•  Type A personality
•  Decisive decision makers
•  Devoted to workaholic
•  Firm and unyielding in relationships
•  Gets to the point
•  Goal and results oriented
•  Hard working
•  High energy
•  Impatient
•  Innovative
•  Lovers of challenges
•  Opinionated, blunt, and brusque
•  Over achiever
•  Results oriented
•  Stubborn
•  Task oriented
•  Tactless at times

Controllers, also known as Drivers, seldom listen to others around them and instead focus on the task at hand. They only need to know what and can usually figure out how and why.

The controller is a doer and often the driving force within an organization. Not surprising, based on my communications style testing, 85 percent of all lawyers fall into the “controller” or “analyzer” communication style quadrant. This person leads others. He is characterized by emphasis on action and results. This person thrives on getting things done here and now. Just as the alpha dog must lead the pack, the controller must be first and must lead. Because he places high standards on himself and others, he is likely to be seen as constructively impatient and tireless.

When communicating or when working with the typical controller, be prepared to move fast and to be tested. Expect the controller to argue, interrupt, disagree, raise his voice and challenge your thoughts. Keep in mind that this behavior is not an attack on you. The controller’s communications is not personal; it is just the way he or she is.


•  Artistic
•  Creative
•  Communicators
•  Dreamers
•  Excitement about ideas
•  Enthusiastic
•  Quick decision maker
•  Unrealistic goals
•  Seeks approval and needs compliments
•  Makes generalizations
•  Motivators
•  Natural salesmen
•  Outgoing
•  Persuasive
•  Responsive
•  Talkers
•  Warm

Promoters tend to not like isolation and will instead vie for attention. They tend to exaggerate and/or leave out facts and details.

The big-picture person has just arrived. The promoter style is characterized by heavy emphasis on ideas, innovation, concepts and long-range thinking. The promoter will challenge you–not because she is hostile–but because she has learned the value of constant probing to uncover new ideas.

A fast and deep thinker, she questions herself and others. She is not inclined to take things for granted. The promoter is seen as a leader and a visionary capable of seeing new possibilities that others do not sense. This is a person with a strong ego who can come across as “superior” and can be condescending in her communications. Quick thinking and a quick wit are characteristics of the promoter.


•  Always willing to help
•  Asks Questions
•  Avoid conflict
•  Dislikes risk
•  Dislikes pressure
•  Dislikes conflicts
•  Followers
•  Good listeners
•  Highly sensitive
•  Insecure and likes reassurance
•  Kind-hearted
•  Needs to know why and how
•  Quiet and soft-spoken
•  Resistant to change
•  Tendency toward pacifying
•  The worker bee of an organization

Supporters tend to yield rather than deal with a possible confrontation. They have the ability to blend into any situation well. They may appear wishy-washy at times, having difficulty with making firm decisions. Many are music, poetry, and art lovers.

A concern for people dominates the thinking and behavior of the supporter style. He is often sought out for his ability to empathize and for his patience with others during a time of crisis.

An understanding listener, he can identify change in ways that reduce conflicting forces and increase the likelihood of cooperation and teamwork. A weakness among supporters is their tendency to become emotional, which may be viewed as a substitution for taking action. Of the four personality types, the supporter is the most likely to flinch–to back away–in a time of conflict.

Effective communication with the supporter is best achieved through an informal, open, and personalized approach. Your face-to-face communications should be somewhat guarded. Maintain ample physical space between yourself and the supporter type. While you can be enthusiastic, even somewhat aggressive when communicating with the controller, the supporter will balk at signs of aggressive communications.


•  Cautious
•  Conservative
•  Detail oriented
•  Follows directions
•  Detail oriented
•  Logical
•  Low pressure
•  Precise
•  Persistent
•  Slow decision maker
•  Tend to be the planners and organizers
•  Technical oriented
•  Thinkers
•  Need to know what, how and why

Analysts will tend to withdraw themselves and quietly gather information rather than make a quick decision. They can have a difficult time making decisions without all the facts. They make great accountants and engineers. They may have tendencies toward being highly critical and will tend to be pessimistic in nature. They can be very perceptive.

They analyst is characterized by analysis, details, logic, systematic inquiry and being a bit stiff. This person functions in a steady, tenacious manner, finding great satisfaction in identifying a problem, weighing options carefully and testing them to determine the best possible solution. She is of great value as a logical thinker who provides objectivity to a complex problem. Don’t expect her to be the life of the party, but she will show up on time!

When communicating with or when working with analyzers, be well-organized, have details lined up and plan each meeting carefully. Speak slowly, as she processes information more carefully than most. Pause as you speak and ask questions to make sure you are both on the same page of your topic of discussion. One of the surest means for creating a communication barrier with the analyzer is to generalize. Remember: think specifics when communicating with the analyzer.

Put Communication Style to Work

Establishing rapport with the different personality styles requires matching the communication style with the personality.

1. Determine the tendency of your own personality.

2. Determine the personality style of those with whom you are speaking.

3. Increase or decrease the communication style qualities within your talk to match those with whom you are speaking.

Remember, personality styles are modes of operation we use at given times and in given circumstances. People will tend to change and even adapt depending on the situation and their purpose. When we speak in every day conversation, our communication style will follow our personality style.

Being aware of this quality will allow us to mirror those we are talking to. We could be speaking one on one or to a group. Matching the communication style will improve our ability to reach the listeners.

How Can You Know?

How can you know which types you’re talking to? Think of the audience or the person that you are delivering the message to. The message you are giving to your managers may be different than the rest of the agency.  Then focus your communication to match their listening and personality style.

Through your knowledge of communication styles, you are in a position to defuse many communication and personality conflicts. The study of the four personality types is not an attempt to pigeonhole anyone into a specific style, but rather to provide information that will assist a person to align his or her communication with the communication style of the other person. The goal, then, is to assist us to be on the same wavelength as the other person. By recognizing each of these communications styles, you can better present your message so that it will be acceptable to the other person.

Do you know your style and the style of those with whom you are trying to communicate? Are they a difficult person? If so, engage them knowing these communications styles and, when you do, your relationship with the challenging personality will change for the better. Ultimately, you will be able to understand people from a different perspective, and it will make you a better leader at American Income Life.


About Mark Ting

Mark Ting is a Staff Writer at Torchmark Corporation, writing about American Income Life and National Income Life Insurance Companies. Google+

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