We’ve all been there - those awkward moments when someone just corrected your grammar, or you feel trapped because the other person won’t stop talking and let you leave, even though you’ve been edging towards the door for the past 5 minutes.
These irritating exchanges might feel like personal attacks on your intelligence or your time, but what’s really going on here is different communication styles unwittingly clashing.
Just like some people are outgoing and some are reserved, our different personalities express themselves in various habits and patterns of communicating. One great framework for understanding these different styles is the DiSC Profile.
What Is the DiSC Profile?
The DiSC Profile is a model for patterns of behavior and communication styles, based on the psychological research Dr. William Marston did in the 1920s. His findings were developed into the current model, which uses 4 communication style profiles (DiSC), each named after a core belief.
The DiSC model equips you to quickly read other people’s communication styles, and then adapt your own communication behaviors and responses to suit them. This is helpful when meeting new people, as well as for improving communication with people you already know. This model is applicable in every situation: talking to your mother-in-law on the phone, meeting a new business connection, going on a first date, or talking to your husband over dinner.
The DiSC model equips you to quickly read other people’s communication styles, and then adapt your own communication behaviors and responses to suit them.
Read on to discover your communication style:
D Style = Dominance
The core belief of the D style person is that I’m valuable if I’m producing or at the top of the hierarchy. Because of this, the D style is task-oriented and prioritizes competency, action, and results. This doesn’t mean D’s don’t care about people. D’s often have a tribe mentality - “I take care of my people first.” But they do have to be careful to not let their ability to go into “work mode” - when they block out all distractions, including voices - hurt the people around them.
D style people are natural leaders who like independence and to be in control, and who don’t like having their authority questioned. They like to be in the front of the room, commanding the audience.
D style people are natural leaders who like independence and to be in control, and who don’t like having their authority questioned.
Additionally, they tend to be direct, decisive, driven, and determined. They are motivated by competition and success.
The weaknesses of the D style are that they tend to lack compassion, patience, and openness of mind. D’s often fear vulnerability and are slow to trust others. They also have a low tolerance for the emotions and shortcomings of others. When under stress, a D will operate with little concern for others’ emotions, can overrule doubts, and will resist delegating. They are also likely to express anger through ranting or challenging others.
D Style Character - Tony Stark from the Marvel Universe
How To Recognize a D in the First Conversation
They are direct in speech and tend to skip over pleasantries or small talk. They are comfortable making eye contact. They are self-confident and comfortable with being in charge or telling others what to do. They make quick decisions and expect quick decisions from others.
How To Communicate with D Individuals:
Keep the opening pleasantries to a minimum.
Make eye contact.
Be honest and straightforward.
Be brief and to the point. Don’t go off on tangents.
Focus on solutions rather than problems.
Watch their body language - if they are getting antsy, wrap up the conversation.
I Style = Influence/Interaction
The core belief of the I style person is that I'm valuable if I can attract people. I styles are naturally people-oriented and usually have a knack for influencing or persuading others (often by their own inherent enthusiasm). They are magnetic, warm, trusting, sociable, talkative, and optimistic. They tend to be spontaneous and need to express themselves. They like to have flair and wear bright colors.
I styles are more focused on their feelings; it matters very much to them that they feel right about a situation. I styles are motivated by relationships, group activities, recognition (both verbal and prizes), and feeling popular and accepted. They thrive on compliments!
I styles are naturally people-oriented and usually have a knack for influencing or persuading others.
The weaknesses of the I style are being impulsive and disorganized, as well as procrastinating and having a lack of follow-through. I style people might come across as superficial. They struggle to research all the facts, speak directly and briefly, and stay focused for extended periods of time. They fear being ignored, disapproved, or humiliated. When under stress, the I style can become overly dramatic or emotional, erratic, or sloppy.
(Extreme) I Style Character - Michael Scott from The Office
How To Recognize an I in the First Conversation
They probably approached you first to compliment you on your clothes or hair! They are stylish and wearing bright colors or bold patterns. They are completely comfortable keeping the conversation going. They are open and engaging. They might jump from topic to topic, but they are focused on you. They laugh easily. You feel like their friend by the end of the conversation.
How To Communicate with I Individuals:
Open with sincere pleasantries or compliments - they’re quick to pick up on faked emotions.
Engage in small talk, or ask about their day - and then listen!
Allow them time to ask questions and talk. Don’t interrupt them.
Be open and share your experiences.
Focus on the positives.
Avoid overloading them with details.
Allow yourself to emote - they need to see emotional expressions on others' faces when in conversation.
S Style = Steadiness
The core belief of the S style person is I’m valuable if I can please others. S styles are also people-oriented and tend to take care of everyone else first - even people outside their immediate circle. They also need to feel accepted by those around them. They are motivated by opportunities to help and by sincere appreciation.
Think of S styles as the “cozy and comfortable people.” They are naturally thoughtful, empathetic, and cooperative. They highly value trust, dependability, security, loyalty, and helping others. They are calm, patient, and consistent people, who tend to prefer a slower pace in life.
Think of S styles as the “cozy and comfortable people.” They are naturally thoughtful, empathetic, and cooperative.
The weaknesses of the S style are that they may be indecisive, overly accommodating, and avoid change. They don’t like risk or change, but try to stick with what they already know and do, even if it’s unpleasant (because a familiar pain is better than the dangers of the unknown).
Moreover, they struggle to confront others or promote themselves, which includes asking for help or asserting their own needs. S styles may over-commit because they don’t like to say no to others in need; they fear hurting other people’s feelings. When under stress, S styles can become passive-aggressive or resentful.
S Style Character - Beth March from Little Women
How To Recognize a S in the First Conversation
They are extremely hospitable and caretaking. They are very sympathetic and often come across as maternal. They continually keep the conversation focused away from themselves, but ask plenty of questions about you. They are calm and emotionally stable. They are involved in volunteer activities and in their community.
How To Communicate with S Individuals:
Be personal and amiable. Smile!
Open with sincere pleasantries. Be polite.
Express your interest in them. Ask about them, their day, etc.
Express your gratitude for any kindness they’ve done you.
Be clear in what you expect from them. Ask what their needs are.
Avoid being confrontational, aggressive, or rude.
Don’t take advantage of their desire to help with everything, but also don’t make them feel superfluous.
C Style = Conscientiousness
The core belief of the C style person is that I’m valuable if I’m competent. Because of this, C styles are task-oriented, and they highly value accuracy and correctness. They usually want to control their environment or the situation to make sure things are done right. They can also dismiss the importance of human emotion (because it’s messy and unpredictable).
They are careful, systematic, observant, and tactful. They like to learn and apply their knowledge. Doing high quality work is very important to them. They prefer stability and predictability, but they also want to be the best so they strive for personal growth.
They prefer stability and predictability, but they also want to be the best so they strive for personal growth.
The weaknesses of the C style are they might procrastinate making a decision because they feel like they don’t have enough information or they are worried about making the “best” decision. They fear being wrong and being criticized, which leads to perfectionism. They can be overly critical of others (or themselves). They struggle to delegate and relinquish control to others. They can struggle to be sociable and to acknowledge their emotions. When under stress, the C style person can be avoidant, disagreeable, and stubborn.
(Extreme) C Style Character - Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory
How To Recognize a C in the First Conversation
They may self-edit as they speak, or even correct you or challenge the accuracy of your comment. They ask for clarification or for more information. They are rule followers and creatures of habit. They order the same things off the menu every time. Or if they do try something new, they will read reviews before picking the restaurant or they will consult with the bartender before ordering a new drink.
How To Communicate with C Individuals:
Focus on facts and details, avoid generalizations.
Give correct information. Give enough information.
Don’t correct them if you can avoid it - it will hurt their feelings.
Don’t get offended if they correct you! They don’t see it as rude but as adhering to the truth.
Minimize pep talk and “emotional language.”
Be patient, persistent, and diplomatic.
Don’t push them to step outside their comfort zone.
A Few More Notes
After reading the above descriptions, you might think this is an oversimplification. And, in a way, it is. Most people express a combination of communication styles, but one is usually dominant. When people are stressed, tired, or upset, they will express their dominant style.
Because these are behaviors (meaning, actions we choose to do), we can change them.
Also, because these are behaviors (meaning, actions we choose to do), we can change them. It’s possible for a D style to learn the communicating behaviors of an I style and assume them habitually. You can become adept at giving sincere compliments and starting conversations with strangers, but this is a learned behavior and it will take practice and extra energy.
If you’re still not sure what your dominant communication style is, you can take a free DiSC quiz.
These 4 profiles are great tools for navigating different communication styles. The next conversation you have with a coworker or a new acquaintance, test out this model of communication. You might be surprised at how well it goes!