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DISC is a powerful model of human behavior that helps people understand “why they do what they do.” We each have our own style, our own way we like to communicate with others (different strokes for different folks). This is a basic human fact. Each interaction with other people requires you to assess the situation from a fresh perspective.
Unfortunately, a tremendous amount of human energy is used unproductively in talking past or “at” each other. We often fail to make a real connection with someone because we have a set of behavioral preferences that do not mesh with those of the person on the other side of our bifocals.
Progress agents can utilize a keen awareness of individual behavioral differences and, without being chameleons, modify their own preferences to make favorable impressions .
Even though we are all unique, most people do fit into a certain style or predictable pattern of behavior. People with similar styles tend to exhibit specific types of behavior common to that style. Such patterns of behavior influence how people prefer to communicate and interact.
“Behavior is the mirror in which everyone shows their image.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
We need to strive to understand and embrace these different behavioral styles. This makes us better able to interact with other folks, even those who appear to be very different and sometimes hard to understand. When we identify the behavioral differences in ourselves and others, we can adapt our style to create a comfortable environment for the person we are speaking with.
A solid understanding of the DISC behavioral model is useful. DISC assessments measures observable behavior and emotions. The development of the DISC model is based on the work of American psychologist Dr. William Marston, an expert in behavioral styles.
In 1926, Marston published The Emotions of Normal People, in which he grouped people along two lines: either active or passive tendencies relative to their favorable or unfavorable view of the environment and their relationship to that environment.
Say what? Here is a view the DISC Behavioral Model from 30,000 feet:
Some people are Reserved and some are Outgoing. One type is not better than the other.
Some people are People-Oriented and some are Task-Oriented. One type is not better than the other.
Each of us is a unique blend of: Reserved or Outgoing, mixed with the quality of being People-Focused or Task-Focused.
Marston’s DISC research showed how behavioral characteristics may be grouped into four fundamental styles (D.I.S.C.):
D – Dominance
These are the Task-Oriented, Outgoing Types.
These folks are direct, demanding, determined, and decisive. They are confident, competitive, take-action doers.
They will likely ask WHAT questions more than HOW questions.
Some famous dominant behavior types are:
Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Ford, General Patton, Mark Cuban, Barbara Walters, Vince Lombardi.
To deliver a solid first impression to D-types:
Be concise and direct. These people need prestige, authority, and control.
I – Influence
These are the People-Oriented, Outgoing Types.
These folks are interactive, inspirational, impressive, and interested in people. They are friendly, outgoing, emotional “talkers.”
They will likely ask WHO questions more than WHY questions.
Some famous influential behavior types are:
Oprah Winfrey, Will Farrell, Bill Cosby, Sally Field (You like me. You really like me!), George Lopez, Bill Clinton, Wayne Brady.
To deliver a solid first impression to I-types:
Skip the details, socialize, and show excitement.
These people need recognition, acceptance, and to be heard.
S – Steadiness
These are the Reserved, People-Oriented Types.
These folks are stable, sensitive, and supportive. They are loyal, dependable, and good listeners. They will likely ask HOW questions more than WHAT questions.
Some famous steady behavior types are:
Mister Rogers, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Tonto (The Lone Ranger’s faithful Indian companion).
To deliver a solid first impression to S-types:
Be reassuring and take it slow. These people need security, appreciation , and time to decide if there should be a relationship.
C – Conscientiousness
These are the Reserved, Task-Oriented Types.
These folks are competent, careful, calculating, contemplative, and cautious. They are analytical, detailed, and do not show emotions readily. They will likely ask WHY questions more than WHO questions.
Some famous conscientious behavior types are:
Emily Post, Tom Landry, Isaac Newton, Columbo (OK, not a real dude, but you get the point), Johann Sebastian Bach, Michelangelo, Sherlock Holmes (again, not a real guy).
To deliver a solid first impression to C-types:
Be prepared and structured. These people need facts and are committed to quality.
Of course, all typologies are approximations. People display varying amounts of these four dimensions rather than just one. However, understanding the four different behavioral styles makes us better able to make positive impressions, even with those who we see as “different” or hard to understand. Being sensitive to these differences creates a relaxed environment where people want to move the relationship forward and offer their best.
Recognize and respect individual nuances, make adjustments, use good judgment, and adapt. Learning and incorporating the DISC model of behavior is valuable for increasing trust and keeping communication open.
In my work with individuals and within organizations, I have had the opportunity to research and utilize several useful educational tools based on the DISC behavioral model. Feel free to contact me for further information.
A few interesting side notes:
Much later in his life, Dr. Marston created “Wonder Woman” while serving as an educational consultant for DC Comics. Authoring the Wonder Woman comic, Marston used a pen name: Charles Moulton.
The desire to understand the reasons for our diverse behavior has been an age-old preoccupation. The explanations of the ancients were interesting:
Empedocles (444 B.C.), the founder of a school of medicine in Sicily, believed that everything is made of earth, air, fire, and water. These external elements combine in an infinite number of ways, thus explaining the diversity of behavior.
In 400 B.C. the Greek physician Hippocrates came to the conclusion that it is not external factors that shape behavior. He disagreed with many of his day who believed human behavior was determined by being born under a certain astrological configuration of planets. Hippocrates theorized that it was something that takes place “inside” the individual.
Hippocrates believed that if people had a fast, hot fluid running inside their body, they would be direct, decisive, and a leadership-type person. If one had a fluid that was warm and slow, that person would be family- and relationship-oriented.
Even though Hippocrates’ ‘blood theory’ didn’t hold much water, it was the first substantial method for identifying and grouping types of human behavior.