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Working With ‘Dominant’ Styles

By Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed.

Among the world’s population are four basic behavioral styles. This isn’t a new discovery. At least as far back as Hippocrates, four different styles of behavior have been observed. Two thousand years ago it was thought those differences were the result of differences in body chemistry. Thus, Hippocrates used the terms choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic and melancholy to identify the different styles. It wasn’t until the 1920s that a gentleman named William Marston working at Columbia University came up with a more scientific method for classifying behavioral styles.

This is the second installment in a series on identifying and working with different behavioral styles. Our focus today is on people who are more task-focused and comfortable making high-risk decisions quickly. Marston noticed that the predominant characteristic of people like this is a desire to dominate any problem that comes their way. If a challenge or obstacle presented itself, these folks tended to jump on the problem right away with a strong will to win. Hence, Marston chose the word “Dominant” to identify people with these tendencies.

Value to the team

Those with strong Dominant tendencies are forward thinking, tenacious and innovative. They are self-starters who place a high value on time.

Ideal environment and motivations

It’s not a good idea to assign strong Dominant styles a lot of routine work. They prefer being innovative and free from control or details. They operate best when they can solve challenging problems and be evaluated on the results, not the methods they used to achieve those results. They usually do well when they have the power and authority to achieve the results expected and are given opportunities to express their viewpoints.

Best communication methods

Because people with Dominant styles strive for efficiency, one of the best pieces of advice I can give for those who work with Dominant styles is, “Be brief, be bright, be gone.” In other words, don’t strive to build relationship. Stick to bullet-point facts presented in a logical order and offer recommendations based on facts, not mere opinions. And then be done. Steer clear of too many details unless asked. Rambling, telling stories or attempting to build relationship are also not good choices.

If you disagree with someone who has a Dominant style, be sure you have facts to back up your position. And, when presenting your case, show how your approach will bring desired results.

Those with Dominant styles sometimes come across as argumentative, but really, they’re just testing the strength of various perspectives. Remember that those with this style desire to be efficient, so while it seems like they’re impatiently challenging your perspective, in their mind they are simply seeking quick answers. For those with a Dominant style, facts are far more important than feelings, so at times they can appear to be cold-hearted. This isn’t necessarily the case. It’s just that they’re striving to win and achieve a quick resolution to a problem.

In the next issue I’ll be reviewing the “Influencing” style.

Daniel Bobinski, M.Ed. is a best-selling author and a popular speaker at conferences and retreats. For more than 30 years he’s been working with teams and individuals (1:1 coaching) to help them achieve excellence. He was also teaching Emotional Intelligence since before it was a thing. Reach Daniel through his website,, or his office: 208-375-7606.



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