Georgia Shaffer from Pennsylvania
An essential part of writing is understanding the various communication styles of your readers. For example, some people might skip over what they consider nonessential details just to get to your point. Other people will curl up in a corner and savor the words as they read your complete article or book. Some will find delight in your most interesting facts and details while other readers gain joy from the energy, enthusiasm and emotions of your stories.
Using the four personalities described in the book Wired that Way written by Marita Littauer, here’s a brief overview that includes writing tips for each personality.
The Popular Sanguine is outgoing and full of energy. Their desire is to have fun and be entertaining.
Since they love a good story, keep a journal or file capturing the emotions and experiences around you. It is especially helpful if you record the actual dialogue. Here’s an example of a quote I wrote down right after a conversation with a women whose son had died. She had been angry with God and talked about one day in particular.
“I began to yell and scream at God. ‘Where were you? Why did you let Wes die? Why do I have to hurt so badly?’ I fought and fought knowing who would win, but I was so angry I didn’t care.”
As she poured out her anger she found herself “filled with a profound sense of His might and power. It gave me such peace and hope knowing that He can and will take my tragedy and use it.”[i]
I’m glad I recorded her exact words as soon as I was out of her presence. If I had waited until I was writing some article where I wanted to recount her story, I would have lost her raw emotions.
The Perfect Melancholy tends to be meticulous, sensitive and efficient. Their basic desire is for perfection and organization. They pay close attention to the details. Melancholies love gaining new insights, so it is helpful to continually gather facts and references to use in your writing. They will often underline or file your statistics or quotes for later use.
I’ve found providing melancholies with specific ideas for times of reflection is also something they appreciate. In my book Avoiding the 12 Relationship Mistakes Women Make, I have a section at the end of each chapter called “STOP: Proceed with Caution,” which provides questions for deeper thought.
The Powerful Choleric personality is the natural born leader and the doer. Their style of communicating is direct and to the point.
Before you start to write, be sure to list your main points for each chapter or article because the choleric wants to know the bottom line. If you are writing nonfiction, state your objective or goal for the piece near the beginning so that the reader will know the benefit they will gain from reading what you wrote. In Avoiding the 12 Relationships Mistakes Women Make, this is one way I did that: “In the following chapters we’ll discuss twelve relational blind spots. We’ll learn how they sabotage our relationships and discuss specific strategies to avoid their destructive impact.”[ii]
The Peaceful Phlegmatic is the laidback, easy going, likable, and balanced personality. Their style of communicating is to watch, take things in, and ponder them.
Because their basic desire is for peace and quiet, they may tend to avoid stories with lots of upheaval and conflict. If you write fiction, try to have at least one character in your story whose life remains steady and solid.
For nonfiction, if you are listing tips to improve relationships, for example, realize the phlegmatic personality might follow through with one or two ideas but ignore the rest. Keep your suggestions short, as the fewer the choices you offer them the better.
In summary, when you incorporate the personality styles in your writing, your readers will feel like you understand them and have written something just for them.
About Georgia Shaffer
Georgia is an author, Christian life coach, and licensed Psychologist in Pennsylvania. Her books include Avoiding the 12 Relationship Mistakes Women Make, Taking Out Your Emotional Trash, and A Gift of Mourning Glories: Restoring Your Life after Loss. For more information on Georgia or on her coaching of authors and speakers visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.
[i] Georgia Shaffer, A Gift of Mourning Glories: Restoring Your Life After Loss (Ann Arbor, MI, Servant Publications, 2000), 40.
[ii] Georgia Shaffer, Avoiding the 12 Relationship Mistakes Women Make (Eugene, OR, Harvest House, 2014),11.