Presidential race is a study in behavior styles

I study people for a living, so I can’t help but analyze political candidates.  This presidential election gave me two good specimens to analyze. 

Obama and Romney are behavioral opposites.  Let me explain — and understand that I am just talking about behavior style, not political platforms or promises.

Obama comes across as approachable and warm.  Romney comes across as more stern and detached.

Obama comes across as relateable.  Romney comes across as aloof.

Obama’s facial expressions are usually relaxed and natural.  Romney often looks as though he’s having to remember to smile.

Obama talks more about people.  Romney talks more about the task at hand.

In DISC terms (DISC is the behavioral model I teach and use in my practice), I would label Obama as Influencer/Steady and Romney as Dominant/Compliant.  2012 Presidential Candidate DISC Styles  These are opposites on the DISC graph, though neither is inherently right or wrong.  There is a need for people who are task oriented like Romney, just as there is a need for people who are people-oriented like Obama.  Both have value.

Here’s what I observed most specifically from the campaign.  Romney was trying to learn to adapt his style to look more open, compassionate and engaging.  (I’m not saying he isn’t those things, just that his behavior style doesn’t SHOW them easily.)  These traits are exhibited more naturally by Obama.  Romney ended up looking “fake,” because he never developed a comfortable way to adapt his style.

In my observation, politicians who naturally exhibit more of the people-oriented temperament are generally more successful.  Based on my observations, the winners below exhibited more warmth, approachability, banter-ability or influencing ability than the losers:

  • Kennedy over Nixon
  • Reagan over Carter
  • Reagan over Mondale
  • Clinton over Bush
  • Clinton over Dole
  • Bush over Gore
  • Bush over Kerry
  • Obama over McCain and Romney

Those who lost were generally more “stiff” and less approachable.

Maybe this happens because most of the population falls on the people-oriented end of the spectrum (around 68%) than the task-oriented end of the spectrum (around 32%).  Statistically, we are usually more comfortable with people who are more like us.

Does that mean the political platforms don’t matter?  Of course not.  But behavior style does play a part in how comfortable people are with others, and how positively they feel toward others.

Studying behavior styles is fascinating to me.  Understanding how to connect with other people and make them more comfortable is a critical skill in business as well as politics.  If you’d like to learn more about this concept, give me a call.  I’m putting together a class for early December, and I’d love to have you join me!  704-315-9090

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