Interpersonal styles: and the ‘FLAT’ wheel

Questions  (1)Have you ever thought about why you get your business proposals accepted by some individuals but have a hard time convincing others of the benefits – or even to give you time?

As humans we are ‘hard wired’ to interact with the people around us both our significant others and total strangers. We learn how to do this effectively from birth. As you grow older you will be aware of people in your own social and work circles that you ‘click’ with and those you don’t! You learn different strategies to get results but there are always people who you have to interact with who you can’t seem to find common ground, or who irritate you or you seem to unwittingly irritate – It may not be all the time, but there might be a pattern at specific points in time or over specific issues.

Understanding how people might react, and how this might be different from the way you react will help to highlight some of these ‘patterns of irritation’.

The FLAT wheel is a quick and ‘dirty’ way to look at inter personal styles and a good method for evaluating potential ‘pitfalls’ when planning to discuss an issue or idea with either someone new or with a different skill set to ourselves. It will help you plan to address their needs and make them feel as comfortable as possible.

This mechanic is known as the ‘FLAT’ wheel [the acronym comes from the original arms of the wheel Formal; Logical; Analytical; Risk Taking] but over the years I have added in other dimensions. The method is to choose the characteristics to plot and mark the outer edge as 5 and the centre as 0. The next step is to plot our perception of the person we wish to evaluate on the grid [e.g. 5=VERY analytical 0=NOT at all analytical].

We do this for each arm of the wheel and then join the dots to create a spider’s web. Having done this we repeat the exercise for ourselves, this gives a comparison and will give us advanced warning of where conflicts/ misunderstandings might arise and also how to plan to avoid these by presenting the right things in the right quantities at the right time.

You can apply this process equally to work, social or family and it is worth taking a bit of time to work out some of the ‘wheels’ for people you come into contact with on a regular basis. Flat wheel picThe characteristics we use for example Formal vs Informal; Analytical vs Non Analytical; Logical vs ‘Gut feel’; High attention span vs Low attention span; Creative vs Non creative; Risk taking vs Safety first – you can use other opposites to make the diagram live for you – Clear communication of objectives vs Unclear; Fun loving vs low sense of fun; or Strategic vs Operational; these are all equally valid spokes and the beauty of this ‘quick and dirty’ method is that it is about your perceptions.

You could get your significant others to give you a score 0-5 for each of the spokes, this will give you a feel for how they see you, it might be very close to how you see yourself or there might be some surprises! Either way there is shared learning.

Having identified areas of potential conflict you can plan to change or limit what you do or where you choose to raise a particular point or indeed where you want to hold the discussion, – in the ‘FLAT wheel’ analysis above the person with the higher attention span might choose a slightly more informal environment to deliver a creative idea and might choose to employ a technique of splitting the delivery by ‘drip-feeding’ the information to their colleague with a low attention span so that they don’t get board or distracted before they have had time to consider the content of the discussion. They might also have to consider giving more access to data to engage with the higher analytical drive of their colleague.

The FLAT wheel helps us to look at what we need to achieve and think about how to present it in a way which engages the strengths of the receiver rather than the preferred style of the deliverer.

This simple technique will dramatically improve your success rates!

… and remember there is always MoreThan1Answer…