Identifying a Person’s Behavioral Style Through Email

Understanding someone’s behavioral style gives us an incredible advantage into accomplishing our goals. In today’s world, we don’t always get the opportunity to interact face to face. That’s why it’s important to be able to pick up cues in other ways, giving you the chance to communicate most effectively in a style that works for the other person. People are constantly sending out cues that give clear indicators of their primary behavioral patterns. Verbal cues maybe the most obvious, but we experience these cues also through non-verbal body language and writing styles. Can you actually identify a person’s behavior by analyzing their email style? Absolutely! Being aware of what these cues mean and making sure you’re in tune with them will help you communicate more effectively with different individuals.

Let’s say you had the ability to know what a person was like before you ever met them. You’d understand their quirks and nuances, and could really communicate with them on their level. Wouldn’t you want that advantage? Understanding behavioral styles gives you that advantage and allows you to create an immediate positive impact with the person with whom you are communicating. And you can pick up cues on these behavioral styles in an email just as easily as you can by talking with someone in person.

When we talk about behavioral styles we are talking about two main components: speed/pace and people/tasks. Regarding pace, some people are cautious and thorough; covering all their bases, making their list and checking it twice. Others like to accomplish as many things as possible and do so at record speed because time is always of the essence. Identifying this speed component is something to look for in an email. Does it appear rushed, incomplete or are there errors? Regarding people/tasks, does it feel like it’s impersonal and only about the facts? Is the email lengthy and conversational? Or does the email contain a lot of figures and supporting information that would state someone’s case? Ask yourself if the email feels like a conversation or a work edict? Are you having a conversation or getting an assignment?

These are clear identifiers of a person’s dominant behavioral style.

Now that you have clear identifiers, how do you know what they mean? The DISC behavioral profile model breaks behaviors out into four main components. D stands for Dominance, I represents Influence, S is for Steadiness and C speaks about those who are more Compliant.

Knowing that behaviors help us to predict how a person will act in a certain situation, understanding a little more about each of the four main profiles will help us identify exactly what behavioral type is on the other end of the email.

  1. Dominance - This straight and to the point communicator may favor a bullet-point approach that may have a dictatorial tone and will likely not be supported with many facts. The email may appear to be hastily written and may not explain the person’s thoughts in full detail. There will be little effort at being conversational. This communicator is usually shuffling multiple tasks at once, likely all at a rapid pace, and completing the email may take on more importance than the content itself. Typically lacking warm and fuzzy undertones, this email will stick straight to the point of the message and not contain much else. This person is the one most likely to have a disclaimer in the email signature proactively apologizing for potential typos.
  2. Influence - This verbose email writer loves to talk, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in person, on the phone, through email or even via text. The fact is they love people and enjoy conversation; especially if they can dominate it. The influencer is a storyteller and they may readily go off on a tangent, losing track of what they began to talk about when their email began. The email will likely be lengthy, even if not full of supporting facts. The tone will usually be warm, friendly and conversational. Chances are, it will be written at a fast pace, in the same manner it would have been if they were standing in front of you having an animated conversation.
  3. Steadiness - This person goes with the flow. They are typically people-oriented and friendly and their main goal in life is not to rock the boat. Their email will likely be conversational, but rarely confrontational or edgy. They don’t want to offend or cause controversy so if the content of the email touches on anything that could be interpreted as potentially agitating, they will likely add a softening statement before and after to soften the email's tone. The pace will be relatively even-keeled and it’s a good bet there won’t be any typos.
  4. Compliance - These analyzers like to think things through and then think about them again before they send the email. They state their case in facts and figures. They love statistics and proof. They aren’t opposed to change, but want to be sure they’ve proven that change is actually warranted. The compliant person is most likely to use spell-check although they probably do not even need to do so due to their attention to detail. Their emails may lack personality, but will be full of information, perhaps more than is often needed. There may not be much emotion in the emails of a compliant person but they aren’t looking to make friends, they are looking to complete a task and do so as accurately as possible.

Each of us has various levels of the four behavioral styles listed above. Since no one is entirely one behavior without at least some level of another, it’s not completely black and white. However with a little introspection, it's relatively easy to figure out a person's behavioral style even if you have never met them or spoken with them. They can give you all the clues you need within the framework of their emails.

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