Adding Color to Your Program…People and Personalities

Asking a client to share their communication style and preference isn’t necessarily the first thing that’s done when contacted for help about manure management. However, it’s been shown time and again that communicating to a person in the way that matches the way they want to be communicated to, is the best way to ensure everyone is acknowledged and heard.

What Have I Learned

There are several methods for identifying personality preferences and subsequently, communication preferences. I choose to use the Real Colors® program with the manure haulers I work with. This is a group that has had very little attention given to them by Extension and are reluctant to trust agency folks. Using an organized program like Real Colors® is a non-invasive way to really understand how each of the 25 haulers I work with need to be communicated with. After going through the assessment and figuring out everyone’s individual preferences, we then gather as a group and talk about why some father/son, brother and cousin teams may find it difficult to work together. I follow the personality preference training with conflict management strategies which eventually leads into discussion on how to get along with fellow employees, customers and competitors.

Next Steps

I dare you to ask your most challenging program attendee to be vulnerable enough to discuss their personality and communication style…the ones that come to every event you host within your program. The grumpy guy with crossed arms; the stern lady with pursed lips; or the one who won’t stop talking. Why would you do that? Because the barriers that break and the forward momentum that is gained may be just what your program is lacking.


Mary A. Keena, North Dakota State University Extension,

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