The 4 Personality Types: How to Appeal to Everyone

We are snowflakes—unique, special, no two of us the same. In the era of personalization, when shopping habits drive recommendations and your phone knows you as well as your family, uniqueness takes on added importance. Special people like us deserve and expect special attention for something as basic as building relationships, talking shop, or good old-fashioned interacting.

But how do you customize a conversation for every single person you know? A great place to start is by understanding personalities.

Studies have determined that there are four major personality types:

  • Assertive
  • Amiable
  • Expressive
  • Analytical

These personality types go by many different names (Competitive, Spontaneous, Humanistic, Methodical), acronyms (DISC), and even animals (Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, Beaver). No matter how you label them, the four styles cover just about everyone. Your personality is likely one of the four or could be a blend of two or more.

(For a more specific personality test, try the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It gives you a four-part result and is scary accurate. I’m an ISFJ. What are you?)

Understanding personality types can be a key to better interaction with everyone you meet—at work and play and everywhere in between. Here is how to identify and communicate with each of the four.

1. Assertive – Competitive – Lion

How to appeal to them: Stroke their ego and let them lead.

These are your Type-A personalities, the go-getters who strive to be the best in everything they do. For real-world examples, think Steve Jobs or Donald Trump; for a fictional example, think Don Draper in Mad Men. This is a group of high achievers who are decisive and strong-willed. You would expect to find a glut of them in leadership positions; try looking in the CEO’s corner office or any other job that rewards efficient, independent action.

Make a point of being professional and prepared in your interactions. Keep things moving. An assertive type has places to be and goals to conquer. If possible, you can play to their sense of competition by issuing a challenge or selling them on a way to get ahead.

2. Amiable – Spontaneous – Otter

How to appeal to them: Match their energy and have a good time.

For those with an amiable personality, life is a thrilling adventure or happenin’ party. They love the thrill of the interesting, and their glass is always half-full with possibility. What does the future hold? The anticipation is exhilarating! You might find a high number of amiable personalities among politicians, actors/actresses, and party planners. This mold was made for the outgoing.

The amiable are drawn to excitement, so hold their attention with big-picture ideas and by building rapport. Use their name as often as possible in conversation. Don’t be afraid to throw around an exclamation point or two! Or three!!!

3. Expressive – Humanistic – Golden Retriever

How to appeal to them: Socialize and empathize.

Expressive personalities are people-pleasers at heart; their outward focus on others is their greatest asset. Can’t we all just get along? If an expressive personality had his way, we would. Happiness, friendship, and respect are the pillars of their relationships. This group makes great teachers, counselors, and caregivers. Those with expressive personality types love to bond, and they are pros at doing so.

Avoid confrontation or argument; with an expressive personality, conflict is a four-letter word. Reassure them with words of affirmation, which will serve to both build up self-esteem and engender trust in the relationship. Dig deep into your warm-and-fuzzies. Be sure your interactions make them feel safe.

4. Analytical – Methodical – Beaver

How to appeal to them: Be thorough and give them time.

Where would we be without analytical personality types? We would be lost, late for dinner, and wearing unmatched socks. The analytics are the rational supercomputers of the population. They are information hounds who weigh all the options before making a decision. They are persistent, serious, and orderly. Often, they are perfectionists. Those with an analytic personality thrive on organization and are dependable on deadline. Doctors, professors, and engineers all have a little bit of analytical in them.

Do not rush an analytic, and certainly don’t scrimp on information. Be prepared with data if you need to support a point or make a pitch. Speak in facts and numbers, when possible. A person with an analytic personality is great with follow-through, so make sure you respond in kind.

What personality type do you most associate with?

Chances are you might see yourself in more than one group. Chances are your friends, family, and community fills the spectrum of personalities. Knowing the differences between each can help you appeal to all. Mix up your messages so that there is a little something for everyone, and tailor your interactions when possible. The world is a crazy, four-ingredient stew that needs nurturing. Now you have the recipe and the cooking instructions.

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Kevan Lee crafts content for the Buffer blog, and his work has been featured at Time, Huffington Post, Fast Company, and The Next Web. Get in touch on Twitter at @kevanlee.


  1. Durga Swaroop on the 2nd November

    A very great post. Really loved the way you divided the key issues in to 4 topics. Guessing from my understanding of me, i’ll most often be in the 3 or 4 but some times i may be in 1 or 2 types.

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