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History of Interaction Styles


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


History of the Four Interaction Styles

Throughout the ages, observers of human behavior have repeatedly identified patterns or configurations of behavior. Such holistic sorting of behavior patterns has been recorded for at least twenty-five centuries. Ancient philosophers described four dispositions called temperaments-a choleric, a phlegmatic, a melancholic, and a sanguine. Interpretations of these patterns have varied over the years, with two distinct interpretations, one is David Keirsey's temperament theory and the other relates to the Interaction Style Model.

Most twentieth-century psychologists abandoned holistic observation of human behavior for a microscopic examination of parts, fragments, traits, and so on. To them, all human beings were basically alike-and individual differences were due to chance or conditioning-yet many of them ultimately described patterns that resemble our holistic view.

The seeds were sown for the Interaction Style Model in the 1920s. In 1928, William Marston wrote about the emotional basis for our behavior. John Geier built on Marston's work and developed the DiSC® instrument. Geier looked at traits and clusters of traits that would help us understand how we behave in the "social field." Then came a long string of frameworks and instruments that described the social styles of people. These frameworks yielded descriptions similar to Geier's interpretation of Marston's work.

Many of these authors referenced the work of Carl Jung, Isabel Myers, and Katharine Briggs. Their primary focus, in contrast to Jung, was on outer behavior, not inner states. Some even reference Keirsey's temperament theory. They seemed to not realize they were referencing separate models.

All of these models suggest that these styles or types are inborn. In the meantime, studies continue to be conducted on the various "temperamental" traits that can be identified and tracked over time with physiological measures. Many of these traits seem to relate to the Interaction Styles patterns.

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