The Value of Personal Communication Styles Awareness for Students Through Their High School Education.


Through their high school years, students become more aware that they have a unique personality which they become more and more in touch with as their self-identity develops. Academic research into the development of personalities tells us that as adolescents move more towards an adult like personality profile, there is an expectation that neuroticism will decrease as levels of consciousness, agreeableness, and openness increase.

In our research at EnQPractice we have focused on how exactly levels of consciousness might increase. Whilst we can hope that this happens naturally from life experience and education, the reality is that adolescents could benefit from some more specific direction in this area, that current educational curricula do not always cater for.

In our research we looked at two specific areas that increase our levels of consciousness through self – awareness. These areas of self – awareness are our personal communication styles (also known as personality styles) and personal values. In this article I am going to focus on communication styles and how we have worked to bring these out of the corporate and commercial world only and into education to assist our future leaders while they are still in high school.

Some background first which is taken directly from my doctoral thesis and places some context around what is available regarding personality profiling and where these come from.

The communication and personality profiling systems in the commercial world appear to originate predominantly from two schools of thought. The first is the works of Carl Jung leading to the Myers-Briggs personality theory. The second school of thought dates back to Hippocrates (460BC), which is believed to have led, via William Moulton Marston, to the DiSC personality theory. Instead of going into the detail of how these assessments differ it seemed more relevant, within the pragmatic approach of our study, to consider why they might be valuable to a student’s developing sense of self-awareness.

Through this process EnQPractice developed its assessment with student leadership development in mind, aligning more closely to DiSC than MBTI due to its simpler design with four personality dimensions (MBTI has 16).

Our communications style model represents these four communication dimensions as per the graphic included in this letter. These dimensions are categorised as pioneers, inspirations, insights, and excellences and will be referred to as styles. These are based on two primary differences:

In unfamiliar territory, they step forward confidently or they stand back and observe. When reasoning through a difficult situation they do this with logic and facts (logical reasoning) or with feelings (emotional reasoning).

We should also mention that personality profiling is rooted in behavioural psychology, where the objective is to predict and control behaviour. However, this was not the intention of the EnQPractice profiling system. Whether undertaken using an online assessment or guided through the questions by a facilitator, students are assured from the beginning that they are not being placed into a box, that they can work in any style and that they can change their minds at any time as they learn more about each style. The styles are offered to their developing self–awareness as a guideline for understanding their emotional reactions to situations so that they can reflect upon these reactions. We also assure them that many people are a blend of styles.

This process of learning is therefore an introspective self-report and allows them to reflect more deeply on their more consistent gut-feel responses in place of what is expected of them.

This process of self-reporting and reflection therefore provides the young mind with the following key contributions:

  • Self-awareness and an understanding of how they might think, react, or communicate to enhance self-understanding and self-management. This lays a foundation for emotional intelligence and self-leadership.
  • A safe language to discuss differences. Using the style names and tendencies makes the insights gained from the information feel less personal and confronting.
  • A sense of value as an individual, especially to the two quieter, more observant styles, who tend to be more withdrawn in classroom situations.

Figure 1. A Visual Representation of the Four COE Communication Styles (©

The intention behind exposing students to this form of self-reflection and self-awareness by means of their communication styles is an important one and raises a key question of “How accurate are they?” In our research process, reviewing past studies on the effectiveness of personality type awareness yielded few results. This finding is perhaps explained by Lewis Goldberg, who attributes this slow pace to commercial publishers of these assessments prohibiting progressive scientific enquiries into their product because improvements could invalidate their assessment, explaining the large focus on personality theories in the commercial world, versus the minimal focus on these in the academic world and few interventions on offer in the educational environment. What we can turn to, however, is our nearly 15 years of first-hand experience in observing how these insights equip students with immediately heightened levels of self-awareness and fundamental foundations upon which to build self-leadership.

My final comment from an academic perspective, as the rigour behind our work is vitally important, is that personality theory, and not trait theory, fits very well into Integral Theory. Integral theory was drawn upon in our research to inform our study process. Whilst trait theories (fixed traits) attempt to place people into boxes, with a “you have it or you don’t” approach, the purpose of personality theory in our work, was to develop self-awareness. Personality types are included in integral theory because it recognises distinctions of the individual, equally as important as their gender or blood type. These types are described as a variety of consistent styles that arise in various domains and occur irrespective of developmental levels. Integral theorist, Sean Esbjörn-Hargens, explains different types of personalities, recognised within integral theory, as such; “Drawing (again) on the hiking metaphor, we can think of types as the different kinds of hikers there are — those who like to go fast, those who meander, those who take lots of pictures, those who like to sing, and so on. These kinds of people tend to hike like this regardless of what kinds of trails they are on or terrains they are moving through; they bring their unique style” (Esbjörn-Hargens, 2009, p. 15).

We believe that it is helpful to a developing student to understand what kind of hiker they are whilst encountering the often-rough terrain of high school where they attempt to both fit in and make important life choices such as subject choices. By means of a grounded theory progression, our study we created a new theory of leadership development for students called “Seeding Leadership”. This theory is in agreement with Integral Theory and recognises the uniqueness of each student and the value to them of being made aware of these differences as early in their careers as possible, beginning whilst still in high school.

It is worth mentioning that the communications style module in our courses is rated consistently as the most popular by participating students. From the inception of these courses, we have had thousands of students experience them. These comments represent two of the common themes from their feedback,

“It was interesting to be characterized so, despite this programme or its creators not knowing me personally. It made me feel less alone and understood…related to”.

“I felt that once I understood more about my styles that I could more easily understand the different opinions and perspectives of others, and how valuable those can be.”

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Our teachers and educators play a vital role in assisting us to bring our work into the school environment where we can assist students with these insights. Currently, there are few obvious places to designate leadership development within our current curriculum structures. We believe that this gap in our education system is directly connected to the global leadership crisis, which is why we are working so hard to offer affordable and practical ways for schools to fill this gap and actively participate in the preparation of our future leaders.

Please feel free to reach out to us about how we might be of assistance to your work and align with your visions in this area or read below to follow the links to our site where you can review the options currently available.

Yours in Leadership Preparation,
Dr. Sandy Geyer.

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