Many people are frustrated in their relationships because they feel unheard and undervalued. So as a result, what do they do? They simply exist, and they never experience the life-giving power of true connection. Too many professional relationships—let alone friendships and romantic relationships—fail to experience the convergence of fluid, effective communication through connection to a shared purpose and a sense of mutuality.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There is a proven method to help you communicate with the people in your life in such a way that you’ll feel heard, understood, appreciated and taken seriously. And once you apply this method to your own life, you’ll be able to provide the same for others.
I know the frustration of feeling like I’m talking to a wall when relating to people—people whose blank stares, distracted eyes and flat countenances communicate misunderstanding, and worse, disinterest. For years, I felt undervalued and underappreciated in a few relationships. Granted, my own insecurities poured gasoline on those flames of relationship disconnection, but the point is that I was missing a fundamental truth about understanding and connecting with people who were diametrically opposite of my personality. Interestingly, even though I didn’t connect with some people, I did connect with others. The simple truth was that because I didn’t know how to manage those personality differences, conflict arose.
As I matured in my own growth, made peace with the uniqueness of my personhood and became determined to bolster a healthy sense of identity, insecurity began to wane and I developed the wherewithal to prioritize pursuing understanding in my relationships. And that is the point. When you understand yourself and the people around you, you will relate in a kinder, more compassionate, more effective way—a way that builds trust.
The DiSC personality profile very clearly focuses on behavioral differences that lead to difficulties in life. Unlike other personality profiles, DiSC teaches us how we and others send and receive communication. And this powerful tool isn’t just for work; it’s beneficial for every relationship in your life. The key to utilizing its results, however, requires us to understand that no personality profile is a silver-bullet fix to relationship communication woes; it’s just a tool. But it is a versatile and valuable tool at that—one that can serve as a baseline for understanding the differences that make up one another.
DiSC’s easy-to-understand (and apply) format essentially categorizes people into one of four personality style quadrants: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S) and conscientiousness (C). No style is greater than the other. And under stress, each exhibits its own liability. But knowing how the personality styles manifest in each other is a foundational key for effective trust-building and communication. Let’s talk about each one.
The “D” personality
The “D” style is the most dominant of the four personality styles. “D” styles are fast-paced, results-driven high achievers. They tend to be quite direct, strong-willed and forceful. Quick to act and eager for change, they are “ready, fire, aim” personalities. The monotony of routine is exhausting and unmotivating. Of course, that comes with its own liabilities. They tend to be opinionated and expect others to come along for the ride. Their blunt tendencies often come off as being uncaring and even interruptive. Because of their action-oriented, driven personality, they do tend to make mistakes early on in the decision-making process. But because of their strong personality, they don’t hang on to the guilt of mistakes. Their success comes from being able to be decisive and motivating to a team. Their focus on the big picture often motivates a team to take high risks, many of which are often accompanied by high rewards.
The “I” personality
The “I” style is the most outgoing, interactive, engaging, optimistic and enthusiastic of the four styles. Because they are bent toward being social, “I” personalities aren’t too focused on details or even working independently; like “D” types they are fast-paced, results-oriented people. Collaboration is their middle name. Because they want to be well-liked, social rejection is their kryptonite. As such, confrontation and being direct are a challenge for them. When it comes time to make decisions, their fear of being unpopular motivates them to include others in the decision-making process. Under stress, “I” styles can be seen as being too talkative, emotional and disorganized. Because of their optimism, they tend to over-promise and lack follow-through. But their great success comes from being enthusiastic and high-spirited. They are the ultimate motivational coach. They are phenomenal at generating group discussion, as well as new, creative ideas. Their innate ability to connect people creates a healthy, vibrant environment.
The “S” personality
The “S” style is the most laid-back of the four styles. They’re known for their stabilizing, even-tempered personality. Because of their supportive nature, “S” personalities enjoy camaraderie and working in collaborative teams. Equality and justice are of premier importance to the “S” personality type. As a result of this very stable, steady, even approach to life, change is hard and often resisted out of the gate. High “S” personalities need regular reassurance when approaching new circumstances. Because they are more cautious, their pace is significantly slower than the “I” or the “D” personality. But although they are slower, once they initiate a project, they are maniacal about finishing; they just don’t quit. One of the “S” style’s greatest liabilities actually is birthed out of a strength: helping people. Under pressure, a high “S” actually becomes too supportive, too accommodating and too enabling. In fact, they’ll sacrifice their own needs and desires simply to avoid tension or conflict. At the end of the day, the “S” personality style offers the attitude and determination to get things done, and get them done well.
The “C” personality
The most detail-oriented, analytical and conscientious of the four personality styles, “C” style’s greatest passion is accuracy and doing things correctly the first time. If there isn’t enough time or resources to accomplish a task with high excellence out of the gate, they’d much rather settle with “what is.” On the other side of the coin, though, their demand for excellence and accuracy may keep them in a “ready, aim, aim, aim” posture, which obviously slows down progress in an organization or even a relationship. Their cautious and methodical approach to work and life allows them to mitigate the potentially negative effects of “high highs” and “low lows.” “C” styles fear criticism because they tend to internalize the criticism of work as a criticism of their inherent personhood. While collaboration is a high value for other personalities, “C” styles are quite comfortable (and even prefer) working alone. One of their greatest liabilities is coming across as too critical of others. One must understand that their aim isn’t a person, but a system. Even more so, “C” personalities are significantly more demanding of themselves. Overall, because of their attention to detail and commitment to excellence, “C” styles are often known as the experts on a team.
Without even taking a DiSC assessment, are the lights going off in your mind? Are you relating to any particular style yourself? Perhaps you’re even thinking about a colleague, student, boss or your spouse. As we mentioned earlier, knowing these personality differences allows us to understand the wiring of another person and in turn, communicate in such a way that builds trust and connection. While there is a multiplicity of communication tools at our disposal, I’ll illustrate using a “D” and a “C” personality style difference.
For a high “C” to communicate effectively with a high “D” personality, they must understand that because of their “30,000-foot view” on business and life in general, they may seem pushy and reckless in their communication to you. In turn, you may appear to be too cautious and an impediment to progress and action. Enter a conversation with skill and a plan: Tell them big-picture stories without getting into the “why” or “why not” qualifiers. Additionally, demonstrate that you can move on from issues without getting hamstrung on minutia.
In opposite fashion, a “D” personality relating to a “C” personality will need to learn how to speak and write using facts and details, not just lofty concepts. Avoid “holding a gun” to their head and allow them time to make a decision. Lastly, the high “D” will want to tone down his or her assertiveness and be more cognizant of practicing active listening.
High-flying priorities within personalities
In general fashion, “D” and “I” personalities tend to prioritize and prefer a fast-paced and constantly moving environment, while “S” and “C” personalities prefer a methodical, cautious, familiar pace. In terms of interaction with people, “D” and “C” styles tend to prioritize tasks over people, while “I” and “S” styles tend to prioritize people over tasks. So, while these seem like manageable differences on paper, we mustn’t remain unaware about how these very differences, lenses if you will, create conflict in relationships when any personality strength is overextended and thus becomes a weakness.
Stretched too thinly
Here’s some truth: Any strength overextended becomes a liability to our personality. Consider the following: A healthy “D” moves from being direct and a visionary to being pushy and insensitive. A healthy “I” moves from being interactive to being disorganized and impulsive. The best “S” personalities will be stabilizing, but under stress, they’ll become enabling and rescuing. And finally, the conscientious, detail-oriented, organized “C” will become overly critical, rigid and inflexible.
The bottom line
While this conversation has just scratched the surface of the clarity the DiSC personality profile provides, it is preeminently important to remember that this very valuable tool does not replace the intentional pursuit of connection with real people—people with feelings, desires, fears and unique proclivities. After all, we see the world not as it is, but as we are. Let’s pursue connection together.
This article was published in June 2018 and has been updated. Photo by Shift Drive/Shutterstock
Christopher Cook is a leadership coach and business consultant to both Fortune 1000 and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, he is the host of “Win Today with Christopher Cook,” a popular weekly podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and other outlets. Through his work at WINTODAY.tv and as a contributor for SUCCESS magazine, he serves as a guide to help people design their road map to wholeness from the inside out.