14/05/2012

By Adrian Swinscoe, Director, RARE Business

Have you ever noticed that you find some people more difficult to talk to than others? But, that other colleagues get along with those people just fine? I’m sure, like me, you have.

Until a few years ago, I thought that was one of life’s ‘little struggles’ and that some people were better at it than others. Until, one of my colleagues, Jo, pointed out to me that different types of people require different types of communication. So obvious and true. And, when this was pointed out to me I had a bit of a ‘Doh!’ Homer Simpson moment.

Building on that, Jo went on to tell me that, especially when it comes to communication, it is very useful to have a basic understanding of different personality types and how those apply to yourself and others around you. She explained that whether you are trying to motivate, manage, build a relationship, handle a complaint or take an order, all of these can be made a lot more effective when you understand yourself, how you come across and relate to people, and through that, you can gain a better understanding of the the people you are trying to mange, motivate, help or develop.

Whilst, there are many personality-type assessment tools that we can use to help us understand ourselves and others better like MBTI, Keirsey, etc., the one that I have learnt and find very useful is the DISC personality profile assessment tool.

The DISC profiling test is a system that was developed based on work done by American Psychologist Dr. William Marston in the 1920s. He found that people’s behaviour can be observed and usually falls into four personality ‘types’. He described these as:

- D: Dominant – someone who is assertive, outgoing and all very task oriented ie. all about getting the job done

- I: Influential – here is someone who is outgoing but is less task focused and achieves through influencing people and building relationships

- S: Steady – someone not so outgoing, more reserved and cautious, yet still people, team and harmony oriented

- C: Compliant – this person is again less outgoing but less concerned by people and more about the job in hand but in a very detailed, process oriented manner


Most people when they take the test seem to have two main elements that are prominent in their personality. Myself, for example, I have two dominant areas ‘D’ and ‘C’ (more ‘D’ than ‘C’) and have had to learn to understand and adapt to people that have different profiles, behaviours and preferences to me.

It’s important to add here that these sort of test results are not fixed and can change whether one is at work or at home or at different times of our lives or depending on our experiences. So, it’s not fixed and does change.

I have found that using this knowledge, not to pigeon-hole someone but to communicate better with them, has helped me enormously as now that I understand myself better and how I come across to other people. Now, I find myself in a better position to be able to understand how I can relate to and can communicate best with individual people.

The interesting thing is that this is not only useful in how we talk to people on the phone or face to face but can also be useful when thinking about our written communication. Can you see how the different personality styles might communicate differently in a written form? What do you think your style is and of those people around you be that team members or clients?