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Adapting Training Design and Delivery for the Different Behaviours within the Social Styles Model

There is not so much written about the use of the Social Styles model in training design and training delivery.

Ok, so there’s lots of stuff available to help you design your training using Honey and Mumford Learning Styles and personally I think that is a great model to use as a template for your training design.

However, whereas the Honey and Mumford Learning Styles model looks at learning preferences, the Social Styles model is a really easy to understand method of looking at different styles of communication.

It is behaviour based, so we state ‘John has a tendency to…” rather than “John is a…”.

“People Styles at Work” (Amacom, New York, 1996) by Bolton & Bolton goes into detail but here is a potted summary for you.

Social Styles Model

There are two dimensions on the model:

Responsiveness is the way in which a person is perceived as expressing feelings when relating to others.

So, this is about how much a person appears to show their feelings and emotions to others. More responsive people will show more emotions.

Assertiveness is the way in which a person is perceived as attempting to influence the thoughts and actions of others.

So more assertiveness means more controlling and managing of others.

Here is the model:

Social styles model

The model outlines behavioural characteristics which tend to be present with each style.

Training with Social Styles

So how can we use this as a training design aid? Here are some ideas for you:

  1. When designing your training session think about the needs of each of the four styles.
  2. Check your design to make sure you have something in there to satisfy each style.
  3. Make sure you don’t spend too much time satisfying one style as you may start to lose people who prefer another style.
  4. Think about your activities. Which styles will be OK and not OK with role play? Which style prefers paper or system based problem solving exercises? Which style dislikes any confrontation activities?
  5. Design your handouts and support materials with each style in mind.

Training with Each of the Social Styles



Time to get to know people

Group work

Hands-on activities

Human interest stories

You Tube clips of people stories

Small group discussions

Sharing personal stories

Case studies

Social media engagement pre and post event


Learner driven sessions

Experiential – find out for yourself

Big picture/visioning

Self discovery activities

Mind-mapping, brainstorming

Pictures, collages, stimuli, play dough

Role plays

Presentations to group

Working with different people

High impact visuals

Competitive activities


Data – statistics, charts, graphs

Expert sources/cited

Terminology defined

Technical problems

Clear objectives

Rigorous question and answer sessions

Detailed and accurate handouts

Book/reference lists

Logical lectures/inputs

Video film

Watching role plays


Skills practise sessions

Concise instructions

Repetition and review

Practical applications

Concrete examples

Relating to their world

Objectives that are real world

Case studies

Video film, if relevant


Kay Buckby

Kay is a facilitator and coach with The Development Company

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