DISC is practical, simple. Using four different personality types, based on our needs and how we communicate, it’s easy to understand and explain. While it, because of its simplicity, lacks the depth of other typology systems, dividing people into four different styles of communications creates a practical and simple approach to how to deal with people – your boss, coworkers, and family.
DISC uses four different personality types or communication styles, making up the name of the system. We have people that are dominant, influencing, stable and compliant (or analytical).
The dominant type
This type is originally based on Jung’s Te, though there are a few differences. These people are dominant in their communication, fastpaced and task focused, with the goal coming in the first place. They are often described as people that will do something the wrong way because their main focus lies in getting it done, but while they get it wrong the first time, they’re so effective that they often have time to do it once again, better this time. Under pressure, they become even more dominant, focused and goal-driven, ignoring relationships and niceness, ruthlessly getting things done and moving towards their goal. Their goal is always to reach the result, and they do this through power, seizing control over the situation to shape the environment and circumstances.
When dominant people are leading, which they readily do, they do so through a clear goal. Giving clear directions about what has to be done to reach the goal, they expect people to put their best to move towards the vision. Readily making a decision, they are effective but controlling. Since they disregard emotions and relationships in favor of the goal, the best way to approach them with a complaint is to have clear reasons for why the current direction is suboptimal, and directly confront them, suggesting a different direction. When leading, or communicating with a dominant person, it’s important to be clear and direct. Since they are goal oriented, it’s important to show the vision and goal they will work towards. It’s important to keep them in check and follow up though, or they will continue beyond the goal. The 47th law from Robert Greene’s 48 laws of power, “Do not go past the mark you aimed for: in victory, learn when to stop” is a big problem for these people.
When they describe themselves, they tend to do so in terms of being efficient, goal oriented, focused, having willpower and getting things done. Other people, especially those that are very relationship oriented, usually describes them as controlling and ruthless.
The influencing type
Based on how Jung described the extraverted feeling type, though just as with the dominant type, differing on a few points. They are fast paced just as the dominant type but focused on relationships and people rather than their goal. Driven to influence people, they are talkative and optimistic, and the goal takes second place to having fun while working towards it. While a dominant person doesn’t necessarily need people around them as they work towards something, that is essential for the influencing person. They are inspiring and charismatic, and always seek novelty and change. Their goal is social attention, and seeks appreciation and uses relationships for this. Under pressure, they have a tendency to be hyperactive and verbally attacks people around them.
As a leader, they are inspiring. Picture the speech of William Wallace right before the battle in Braveheart, or how Jordan Belfort in every time he talks to his employees in Wolf of Wallstreet. They are charismatic, moving the company forward towards making people want the vision they have. They are optimistic and fast, and prefers to work with people – but since they are as quick as they are, they easily start a project, get people excited for it, but the project is dismissed after the weekend when the person is bored of the idea. When leading a person of this type, it’s important to be both coaching and clear, or they easily become whimsical and doesn’t get things done. When they come up with an idea, it’s important to pay attention to their thoughts and take it into consideration, as well as working together to realize it, rather than playing the devil’s advocate and oppose them. While it’s important to do with everyone, it’s even more important with influencing people to be clear with what’s supposed to be done, who, and when.
When describing themselves, they are excitable, optimistic and fun. On the other hand, while described by other people, it’s often terms like whimsical and unpredictable, inspiring but starts projects they can’t get done.
The stable type
Contrasting from the two former types, this is a person that works at a lower speed, craving – like the name suggests – stability. As with all types, it’s originally based on Jung’s writing, this type based on Fi, though largely different, and far from always correlated. They are focused on relationships and prefers to work in teams, clear listeners that puts the need of the group in the first place, readily taking on the responsibility that is needed for the team to work. They are stable and moves slowly when they learn something, they prefer to stick to it, rather than engage in useless change. Sometimes described as the average of the three other types, rather than going out in an extreme direction like the other one. Is by far the most common type.
This type is often seen as the one least likely or good for leadership, which is far from true. They don’t lead in the traditional way but coaching and listening, a very democratic style of leadership, where it’s important that every person in the team gets a say. They tend to create a stable and safe environment to work in, introducing change gradually (if at all) while they listen and support their employees. When leading a stable person, it’s essential to introduce change gradually, and let them get used to it before introducing the next step. Rather than showing how it will be good for the organization with cold facts, take time, sit down and discuss it with them. Communicate and show that you understand and value them, and what they contribute with, as it tends to be less visible than the contributions of other types.
A positive description of them is that they are listening and supportive, the backbone of an organization, creating the stable environment where things can get done. A negative approach to them would be that they are resisting change, too compromising and lacks a spine (most of the time).
The analytical type
What Jung described as Ti is under DISC known as the analytical type, a name that fits well with how he described the function. Very analytical and always in need of more information, they are always very well prepared in any type of discussion. They tend to be very focused on the rational and logical approach, always demanding proof for everything. They keep a low tempo to be able to take everything in due time, pay as much attention as is needed on each project. This person seeks facts and security in everything they do, and to reach this, they focus on procedure and details. Always asks for more information, no matter how much they are given, so that they’re able to create a full picture of the topic. Tends not to make pointless mistakes, in contrast to the dominant person who moves forward with no consideration to what’s correct.
When this type is leading, they do so through implementing a clear structure in their organization, with clear procedures of how and when to do things. They have reasons for the decisions they make, so if they are to be questioned, you should prepare extensive reasoning for why they’re wrong – a lot more than what other types deem necessary. They are bureaucratic with a lot of structures, the goal and the path there is already clear and specific, with no need to make any decisions while working – the way it should be, according to this person.
Four types of communication?
There are a lot more than four types of communication, how can everyone fit into these? – They don’t. These are four types, four ways we communicate, four sets of needs we have, but that doesn’t mean there are four types of people. DISC is a highly dynamic system, and we’re not just one of those types. In fact, the ones that are high in just one of them are extremely rare, about 5%. The absolute majority are equally or almost equally strong in two or three, with a few that are equally strong in all four.
We also use all of them to varying degrees. One can be very high in influence, somewhat high in stability, and low in the other ones. This creates a system that is not putting people into a box, but rather four different scales that are used to describe how a person communicates.
We’re not stuck in one “type”. Our natural, instinctive, stressed self is very different than our adaptive, social self, thankfully. Under stress, we tend to retreat to the most basic, primitive version of our dominant factor, whereas we under more favorable circumstances can adapt to the needs of others, taking the edge of how we communicate, in a sense.
As I just mentioned, under stress, we instinctively come back to the most primitive form of the personality types, reacting by instinct to circumstances around us. Looking at the names of the types, we can understand how this looks. Dominant types becomes domineering, commanding and harsh, even less considerate of other people’s emotions. When stressed, they don’t let anything or anyone stand in their way, and runs head first into a conflict or challenge (where is at other times will be slightly moderated). It’s only when they gets to return to their strategic, goal-focused thinking, preferably achieving this, that they comes out of this. This is probably the least pleasant one for people around them, at least directly. Closely followed by the influencing types though, who becomes very manipulative. They still seek attention, but if they can’t get it through “normal” or socially acceptable means, they will make sure they get it either way, becoming highly manipulative. They also become very talkative, impossible to shut up, and even less likely to actually get things done – something they will only be able to do if returned to their normal state by positive relations with other people. Stable and analytical people react somewhat similar, they both retreat into themselves, but in different ways. Stable people becomes quiet, worried and pulls away from everyone and everything, only to be brought back when their basic needs are met – security, continuity and community. For analytical people, they pull back too, but because they can’t deliver a perfect result. If something can’t be done perfectly, it won’t get done at all, which means they won’t do anything. They shut down and becomes insecure in their ability, taking even more time if pressured. Brought back by analyzing and understanding what they should be doing.
DISC is a simple and practical typology, something that’s easy to both learn and teach, and more importantly, easy to apply. It doesn’t go into the depth that other typologies do, which is its strength. It’s a simple way to improve communication with people, a tool that easily fits into the EDC.