Introducing the “magic wand” for communicating: the DISC

As I wrote on Monday, the DISC assessment helps people to understand their own behavioral and communications styles, to identify the styles of other people, and to learn how to make that knowledge work for them.  Today, let’s look at what each of the dominant styles tells you about how a person is likely to act and how best to communicate with that person.

What creates communication?  Body language (55% of the message), tone of voice (38% of the message), words (only 7% of the message), and the pace or rate of speech.  The DISC takes account of all of these factors and teaches you how to use each for maximum effectiveness.  Drawing on behavioral insights that date back to 400 B.C., the DISC measures observable behavior to categorize how people act.  Each of the DISC styles brings its own strengths and weaknesses, and none is “better” than the others.

Dominance: If someone is a “high D,” they’ll probably be rather impatient, demanding, competitive, goal-oriented, and quick to anger.  In communicating with a D, you want to focus on the task at hand and present what you need to communicate almost as an executive summary.  If the D needs more, she’ll ask — but don’t hold your breath waiting for that.  And when the D communicates with you, she’ll probably be blunt, forceful, and directive.

Influence:  A “high I” style is a persuasive, enthusiastic, creative person who likes people and is well-liked.  Communicating with an I calls for creativity, flexibility, and energy.  Use lots of examples, analogies, and pictures, and don’t hesitate to let the I know what other people think.  It’s helpful to be informal with an I and to be ready for lots of spontaneity, but be prepared to cope with the I’s dislike of rigid organization.

Steadiness:  The “high S” is loyal, supportive, a team player, someone who doesn’t like confrontation or change.  His pace will be slower and low-key, and communicating with an S requires reflection of that in your own behavior.  The S wants to hear about how a plan of action will create stability and predictability, and he’s unlikely to act without examining all of the options and working to minimize risks.  The S likes personal attention and being part of a team.

Compliance:  Someone with a “high C” style is organized, detail-oriented, and focused on quality.  Communicating with a C calls for lots of data, a thorough presentation, plenty of material that supports what you’re saying, and precision in the communication.  Think of the C as someone who likes graphs, data, and accuracy.  The C will be rather formal, not a “touchy-feely” kind of person, and she won’t be in a hurry to make a decision.

As these brief introductions to the styles indicates, knowing a person’s dominant style of behavior will allow you to tailor your approach to that person and to understand better what’s going on when that person reacts.  For example, the meaning is radically different between a D who’s angry and an S who is; the D will be quick to get angry, whereas anger in an S likely reveals a much deeper issue because the S doesn’t have a short fuse and dislikes confrontation — so you’ll want to take an S’s anger as a much stronger signal than a D’s anger.  Similarly, you can plan an approach based on behavioral style: think brainstorming with an I and PowerPoint with lots of data for a C.

Once you understand your own behavioral style and learn to recognize others, you will have an inside track to clear communication.  Imagine being able to plan your pitch to a potential client already knowing what kind of information will help him decide that you and your firm have the skills and the savvy to provide the services he needs.  Visualize being able to stop acting as a referee between your colleagues or support staff and instead being able to help them understand where the team members are coming from so they can work together more effectively.  Consider how knowing your own style can help you understand how others are likely to see you, what your strengths and weaknesses are likely to be, and how to adapt your own behavior to communicate better with others.  Knowing more about your style could even help you improve your golf game.

This is just a brief introduction to the DISC and to the attributes and communications styles of each DISC-identified behavioral style.  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me.

2 replies
  1. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Hi there!
    Seems like the DISC is applying the concept that Tim Leary used for plotting the human psyche on comunication alone.

    One more thing: The 7/38/55 rule is probably not accurate in all communications as it has been derived by examining married couples at home. In a business setting for example the actual spoken words will be of more importance I guess.

    The more YOu know a person , the more yOu are able to read his/her body language.
    Of course Reading Body Language will still be an important factor, even if it is a little less important than the rule implies!

    Keep up Your good and informative site!
    Thomas kRaemer

  2. Julie Fleming-Brown
    Julie Fleming-Brown says:

    Thomas, thanks for your comment.

    I just revisited this post today, and I realized for the first time that a subsequent correction I made to the 7/38/55 rule isn’t linked here. Please check for more information, but the take-away is that the relative percentages apply only in limited circumstances and should not be taken as a generally applicable rule. Nevertheless, knowing more about communication style, including tone of voice, pace, word choice, etc., is always beneficial.

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