Which Group Fits

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I was doing some random internet searches and came across something interesting. It’s a site about teaching ballroom dancing and one of the things I found was a blog post about the “four main personality styles” that a ballroom teacher can expect to see. Now, I’m not trying to make fun of this (although I will take a few shots just because) and I know nothing beyond what I saw in the post so this method might work really well.

I know the Famous Franchise does something similar and it makes sense on the surface because we all have different styles, strengths and preferences so finding something that works will keep a student happy. And happy students sign up for more lessons and more lessons means more money and so on. OK, that’s the cynical view. There would also be good teachers who would want to know more about their students so they can make the whole experience more positive and the more lessons would just be a benefit.

I’ve done enough personality tests at work to know that corporate America likes to use these tools as well. Some will even use them as part of the hiring process to find the right “fit”. My team has done plenty of these as well and it can help. Like everything else, it depends on how you want to use them. We are all unique with our own history and story that shape who we are. But, as people, we also tend to assume that everyone sees the world the same way we do. The best way to use these things is to understand where there are differences and recognize that those can cause conflict. It is also key to understand that there is no “right” or “best” set of personality traits or strengths – even though we may all like to assume that ours is the best way of viewing the world.   They are tools and not inherently good or bad but can be used the wrong way.

This particular post groups people into four categories. I typically prefer tests that have more gradations. To me, grouping people into four categories is just too broad. The Myers-Briggs uses 16 but even that isn’t always exact. I come up as an INTP which is generally accurate but my “I” and “T” are pretty strong preferences and the “P” is also relatively strong. But the “N” has always been a week preference. I suspect that if you put me with another INTP who is on the border between “I” and “E”, then we’d have some subtle differences that you’d have to deal with. The point of any of these is that it describes the average or tendencies for a given type and does not mean that everyone with that type is going to act exactly the same.

To be fair, the post also states “while every student is unique …” so there is some acknowledgment that we won’t all easily fit into one of the four groups. The main title of this post was “one size does not fit all” and that is certainly true. The problem I have with things like this is that it is too easy to gloss over the statement that “all students are unique” and focus just on the four categories. Because the oversimplification is that “student X is a YY and so all I have to do is teach him like a YY and life will be good”. One size does not fit all but four sizes are only marginally better. Yes, you can probably gain some insight and tips by doing things like this but you still have to deal with people as individuals and not members of some pre-defined group.

All right, enough of the preamble. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The four types of dance students are (this is lifted straight from the blog post):

The 6:00pm student is a STEADY STEPPER. The Steady Stepper style wants security and prefers things to stay as they are (i.e., doesn’t like change). This style likes doing things in a logical, sequential order, and wants a teacher who shows consistency, discipline and planning.

The 7:00pm student is a LOGICAL LILTER. This student likes to challenge people, to be right, and to be seen as highly intelligent. This style needs you to prove your ideas to him and doesn’t like to be criticized (even though he himself frequently criticizes others). Being “in their heads”, Logical Lilters usually don’t care about things like clothing or style.

The 8:00pm student is a HAPPY HOOFER. This student is flashy and loves to be the center of attention. Happy Hoofers are always coming up with new ideas and can bore easily. They may have a hard time sticking with a syllabus, preferring to shake things up instead!

The 9:00pm student is a PATIENT PARTNER. This style thrives on the connection and relationships with other people. What’s important to a Patient Partner is that his/her teacher shows genuine warmth and caring. This style likes to be praised and wants to be comforted when something upsetting happens. This student will give a great deal of him/herself, and do anything to keep peace and harmony.

So where do you fit?

You might have guessed but the reason I decided to post this was because I don’t see myself fitting neatly into any one of these groups.

I do tend to hate change and yes I would like a teacher who does some planning and I do think I like having things in a logical, sequential order so I could easily be a Steady Stepper. That may be my dominant style.

But, I certainly want to be right and to be seen as highly intelligent (because I am, don’t you know J) . And I really, really HATE to be criticized. I don’t routinely criticize others but I’m certainly in my head a lot. So I could certainly be a Logical Lilter.

On the other hand, I do thrive on a connection with my teacher. I do want a teacher to show some genuine warmth and caring. Yes, I’m needy and I like praise (if it is honest). So would I be a Patient Partner.

Certainly the Happy Hoofer sounds the least like me but when it comes to my routines, I want the flash and I don’t mind being the center of attention. After all, someone who wears an Egyptian costume is not someone who wants to fade into the background.

And I’m sure this person will train you for how to deal with each style with important tricks and techniques to use. All of that is good unless you decide that everyone fits neatly into one of these four buckets and has none of the characteristics of the others. If you tailor your style to fit just one and a student has multiple needs, then you will fail because you won’t be meeting all of their needs.

To some extent, I think this may be at the root of some of the problems I had with Z. I think she fell back on looking at me more as a personality type and not an actual person. And dealing with a real person takes a different level of investment because you have to sense when a person needs something else and adapt your style accordingly. Towards the end, I think she felt I was the Logical Lilter (or the Famous Franchise version of it) because she was full of detail on why each step had to be danced a certain way so I could understand the big picture and maybe not question her as much. But the lessons became nothing but that. We lost any type of connection and warmth. It ended up feeling to me more like she was just doing a job. Show up, teach the lesson, make some notes and move on. Of course, she never got the whole “don’t criticize” part. This is just idle speculation here but I’m sure she thought she was following the book on how to teach me and then would get frustrated when it wouldn’t work.

With the Body Double, I’m getting things in a logical, sequential order and I’m getting warmth, caring and praise. The things I’ve said I like are the things that were missing with Z. That’s the down side to groupings like this. You can use this as a guide but you have to understand that we are not all going to easily fit into a box and that many of us will be a mix of these styles and you have to adapt accordingly.

The article did finish with the statement that it is the teacher’s job to adjust and adapt to each student’s personality and learning style; not the other way around. That is a very true statement.

But it is also true that you can’t easily classify us.  We won’t all fit into a nice, neat category.

Wasn’t there a movie that made the same point ….   Oh, yes, here it is.

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