Linking Interaction Styles to Other Models
by Linda Berens


Adapted from Linda V. Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others®: An Introduction to Interaction Styles 2.0 (Telos Publications, 2008) *Used with permission.

Keirseyan Temperament

Theory About 1985, David Keirsey identified role directing and role informing differences in his four temperament patterns. Thus he named two variants of each temperament. Later, he clarified, in a lecture, that there was another interactional dynamic that he called Initiating and Responding and later referred to as public and private. This latter dynamic clearly related to Extraversion and Introversion, not only as defined by Jung, but also as defined by the physiological psychologists.

Temperament theory derives from organismic psychology, which considers organic wholes rather than looking at separate traits. It also is strongly based in the work of Gregory Bateson on communication theory and family systems theory. This latter work, taken further by Paul Watzlawick, focuses on the relationship-defining aspects of communication, which is why Keirsey called the differences role directing and role informing.



Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® Interaction Styles/MBTI

Various aspects of Jungian-based typology relate either directly or indirectly to the Interaction Style patterns and dynamics. The matches to the full type patterns are listed on the matrix to the right.

The connections between Initiating and Extraversion and between Responding and Introversion are conceptually very clear. In fact when the MBTI Step II was developed through factor analysis, a very similar subscale emerged. However, the Initiating and Responding dynamics are not the whole of Jung's notion of Extraversion/Introversion.

Directing communications seem to have a task focus and Informing communications have a people focus. MBTI practitioners have long related task focus to a preference for Thinking and people focus to a preference for Feeling. Likewise, one would assume that a time focus goes with a preference for Judging and an emergence focus goes with a preference for Perceiving. Yet, when Keirsey applied the role-directing versus role informing construct to the sixteen types as they related to temperament, he related Directing to N and J or S and T in the type code and Informing to N and P or S and F in the type code. Our investigations bore out Keirsey's distinctions.


In 1928, William Marston wrote about the emotional basis for our behavior. Emotions are both psychological and physiological events. Marston focused on what he saw as "the motor self" or a sort of motor or muscular predisposition to react to different environmental stimuli in certain ways. For Marston an emotion involves an urge to move in some fashion. He distinguished emotion from feelings which he considered perceptions. He identified four primary emotions, each with an initial feeling tone of either pleasantness or unpleasantness:

  • Dominance, with a feeling of unpleasantness until stimulus is acted upon
  • Compliance, with a feeling of unpleasantness until stimulus is reconciled
  • Inducement, with a feeling of pleasantness increasing as interaction increases
  • Submission, with a feeling of pleasantness increasing as yielding increases


John Geier picked up Marston's work and out of it developed the DiSC® instrument. Geier's interest was one of looking at traits and clusters of traits that would help us understand how we behave in the "social field." In 1997, Geier interpreted Marston's work through a trait cluster lens, looking for source traits. Source traits (from Raymond Cattell's distinctions) can be factor analyzed and seem to have some sort of underlying unity. This unity seems quite similar to the pattern descriptions that come from a holistic view of the organism which is the underlying foundation of the Interaction Style model.

Social Styles

In contrast to Jung, the primary focus of the authors who wrote about social styles was on an individual's outer behavior, not an individual's inner state. Bolton and Bolton give the most comprehensive references to the sources of the social styles model. Many of these trace back in some way to Blake and Mouton's Managerial Grid which describes behavior along a dichotomy of concern for production versus concern for people. Bolton and Bolton give credit to David Merrill and his associates for developing the Social Styles Model. This model is built on two dimensions. One dimension is along a continuum of more assertive to less assertive. The Boltons define assertiveness as forcefulness in interactions. Their descriptions, including taking the initiative in interpersonal relationships and faster versus slower pace, closely relate to Initiating versus Responding. The other dimension of Social Styles is responsiveness to less responsive. They describe those who are more responsive as emotionally responsive or expressive and those who are less responsive as emotionally controlled. The descriptors of this dimension include people versus task focus as well as many postural and movement characteristics. Descriptors of "responsive" seem to go with the Informing style of communication and descriptors of "less responsive" seem to go with the Directing style of communication. The Social Style patterns of Driver, Analytical, Amiable, and Expressive match well the Interaction style patterns. The Boltons even go so far as to break the styles down even further into four subtypes which would closely match the sixteen type patterns. Tony Allessandra described four styles, Director, Thinker, Relater, and Socializer, with dimensions of Open versus Guarded and Direct versus Indirect. He also described sixteen styles.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes Interaction Styles/MBTI

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed an instrument and a model for looking at interpersonal conflict. They posited personal predispositions for handling conflict as well as noting that certain conditions require different approaches. They point out that on their instrument, people may respond according to their predispositions or according to ways they've learned to handle conflict situations. The dimensions identified by Thomas and Kilmann--Assertive to Unassertive and Cooperative to Uncooperative--are very similar to the social styles dimensions. Four of their conflict styles--Competing, Avoiding, Accommodating, Collaborating--map well to the four Interaction Styles.

The table lists the DiSC styles, Bolton and Bolton's styles, Alessandra's, and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles (TKI) along with the corresponding MBTI® Type code. The relationships are based on a match of content and fit of descriptions from the explanations given by the authors, not on instrument results. None of these relationships are perfect matches, yet the essence of each is represented in the interaction styles.

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