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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.

The 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

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:


  • Icebreakers
  • 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

Written by Kay Buckby

Kay is a facilitator and coach with The Development Company

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