Human Dynamics: A Framework for Understanding People

Book Review by Linda Brown – Fort Huachuca, AZ

Author: David Horne and Sandra Seagal


Understanding how you communicate, process information, and reflect back knowledge you have gained, can determine how well you might or might not connect with others. It isn’t just how we communicate, its understanding how those we are communicating to, receive and process the information we are conveying to them. Are we clear? Are we concise? Are we able to appropriately transfer the knowledge so that the other person understands? As managers, what we say and how we direct others is clear in our eyes – after all, we know what we mean; however, when speaking with staff, our conveyance of information might be clear as mud. How do we appropriately communicate on a level that provides individual staff members the right amount of information, in the right tone, with clear guidance and provides them the ability to problem solve? Human Dynamics. It is recognizing the differences in information processing across the workforce and in our own personal lives. It is identifying each individual’s unique human dynamic and then learning to adapt our interactions and communication process to meet that individual’s need for information so they can be successful in the execution of their duties. It is also about crafting individualized interactions with staff that helps emphasize their potential for development, both individually and collectively, through their own interactions.


In the book Human Dynamics, five different styles of interaction, learning, and processing information, describe the majority of the learning style categories that all individuals fall into. These predominant styles of learning: Mental-Physical, EmotionalObjective, Emotional-Subjective, Physical-Emotional, and Physical-Mental, contain very specific ways that individual’s interact and learn about the world around them.


Of Categories and People


One of the authors, Sandra Seagal, explains that our inability to connect on varying levels are due to preconceived ideas about others’ differences. “The problem is that most distinctions we invoke regarding people are based on inherited assumptions and unexamined stereotypes. Distinctions such as cultural, gender, or professional stereotypes then become the basis of automatic judgements and evaluations, which then reinforce the stereotypes” (Seagal and Horne, 1997). Mindful of placing each individual in a “box” or category to describe someone’s communication or learning style, the Human Dynamic process describes how each of the five styles are different yet interconnect or overlap on various levels which helps to avoid that ‘one size fits all’ theory. For example, the Mental-Physical style includes the ability to ‘determine and maintain long-range vision for self, others, and groups’, as one of its key capacities. On the other hand, the Emotional-Subjective style also includes the ability to ‘sense the emergent directions and new possibilities in events, individuals, and groups’ as a key capacity. These two capacities are somewhat interchangeable and when a leader can distinguish each individual’s unique human dynamic, he/she could place both the Mental-Physical and Emotional-Subjective staff member on a committee that has been tasked to develop a new and innovative business model.


Mixing and Matching


In reading through the basic descriptions of the five dynamics, what astounded me most was I recognized my individual dynamic within minutes. Even though I was tempted to only read my individual dynamic descriptor, I realized that in not trying to familiarize myself with all of them, it would not allow me to see individual dynamics within my staff. Each dynamic has an in-depth descriptor of: communication and information processing, body/space/time, vision and perspective, values, and a list of specific characteristics that coincide with an individual’s natural personality.


For example, if I hadn’t read each dynamic, I would not know to be cautious in pairing up Joan, a Physical-Emotional who is very organic and consensus driven with Chad who is an Emotional-Subjective with strong qualities of being visionary and goal oriented. These two staff members have very different styles, and might ultimately get frustrated working solely with each other a project. While it is important to match like working styles, it is also important to combine different ones so individuals become used to working in diverse groups. So looking at diversifying, I might introduce a third individual, Sarah who is a Physical-Mental to the group, which would balance out the differences between Joan and Chad through her strategic and holistic components.




I have identified myself as a Physical-Emotional. This dynamic carries a bit softer descriptor and my overall goal is to see my staff happy first and foremost, yet productive. I am slow and methodical in my movements, thoughts, and daily life. I am also slow to process information and not very quick on my feet, as I require the full story so I can meticulously process a response. Therefore, I could never be a successful lawyer! This does not mean I do not have the cognitive processing ability, it just allows me the opportunity to visit all potential solutions to whatever I am working on and therefore, not miss much. I do struggle with individuals who fall into the Emotional Objective category who are swift to move events forward and are quick decision makers. These individuals are typically fast-paced, louder, and quick thinkers. I have to really adjust my personality intensity, sometimes to an uncomfortable point, to successfully interact with them.


Workplace Implementation


I will have a short descriptor on each of the Human Dynamics and present to our staff at a future staff meeting. I would ask that all staff members try to identify each of their dynamic, then would group each of those dynamics together. I will have a short exercise for each group to complete. Then, we will mix up the groups and have the same exercise repeated. I will ask staff to identify any challenges within the different dynamics and identify areas where things worked smoothly and where it became a challenge. I will also ask staff to try to identify the different dynamics in their co-workers and we will discuss as a group, different ways to approach each other in our daily interactions, which are tailored to each specific staff member’s dynamic. Hopefully this will help staff communicate more productively and further build cohesive relationships as they learn how best to address co-workers, based on their fundamental dynamic.




Seagal, S., & Horne, D. (1997). Human Dynamics. (p. 15). Waltham, MA: Pegasus Communications, Inc.

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