It takes all sorts, they say.
I love small talk. There’s nothing I like more than the 10 minutes at the start of a meeting when we chat about where we’ve all been on holiday, who got a puppy for Christmas, and whose child threw a tantrum this morning.
In a previous job, I had a colleague who hated that. He’d just want to get started, make some decisions, and get to work on implementing what had been agreed.
He secretly thought I’m a time-waster. There was a part of me that thought he was just grumpy.
But in the end, neither of us was right or wrong, we were just very different people. We had different ways of approaching our relationships with others, both inside and outside of work. And the people we worked with all knew to treat us differently.
It’s hard to know how to approach your relationship with someone, particularly if you’re meeting them for the first time. That’s what the DiSC Profile is for; it categorises everybody across four key personality types, telling us who they are, what they value, and how they like to be approached.
Everyone falls into one of those four quadrants, and each one corresponds to particular personality traits, depending on where they fall.
The further left you fall, the more likely you are to be questioning, objective and logic-focussed.
The further right you fall, the more likely you are to be accepting, empathic and people-focussed.
The higher up you fall, the more likely you are to be active, assertive and fast-paced
The lower down you fall, the more likely you are to be thoughtful, calm and moderate-paced
The personality types
While everyone fits into the following categories, they’re by no means exclusive - we all have a bit of each of these within us. No category is better or worse than the others, but all have their own strengths and weaknesses.
First, Dominance (D-type people). They’re a mixture of the top and left-hand categories, both assertive & questioning, dynamic & challenging. They’re decisive and know what they want - but that can mean they’re sometimes impulsive. They’re challenging and ask the hard questions, but that means they can dominate the conversation.
Secondly, Influence (i-type people). Situated to the right of the d-type category on the wheel, they share many of those traits, but shift further towards that ‘accepting, people focussed’ categorisation. These are the people you’d describe as optimists or extroverts, and love building personal relationships with their colleagues. However, they’re often not detail-oriented: they’re big-picture thinkers who leave those parts to other people.
Continuing around the wheel, Steadiness (S-type people). These are real team players, people who are warm and friendly, wanting to make everyone happy. They’re people who like to reflect on their decisions, and tend to take their time making a choice. They’ll make an effort to include everyone and make sure they’re all comfortable with the direction they settle on - but they can feel uncomfortable with change and avoid confrontation so let issues bubble under the surface.
Finally, Conscientiousness (C-type people). People who fall into this grouping are more analytical; they like to have all the details before they make a decision. Like the D-type people that they are seated next to, they can be sceptical and questioning. More than any other group, C-type personalities are likely to avoid small talk and would prefer not to discuss personal matters at work. They are good at basing their decisions on fact rather than emotion - but that means that they can sometimes come across as cold.
You probably find yourself relating more to one or two of those descriptions than the others. You might fall firmly into one category. You might straddle the line between two, or you might describe yourself not as a firm D-type, but more of a Di, combining aspects of the two. Maybe as you read them, you recognised your friends, family and colleagues.
By identifying where we fall ourselves, and where the people we interact with fall, we can adjust our behaviour to help them feel comfortable. You’re likely to get on with someone who shares your DiSC type - but someone on the far side of the circle? That might take work.
A lot of this is just common sense. That colleague I mentioned who hated small talk? I just stopped asking about his weekend during our meetings.
But it can go deeper than that, too. For example, imagine you’re presenting to a C-type personality; how would you approach that? If it were me, I’d focus on having the data to back up everything I said, since I know there’s a good chance they’ll ask for that. I’d also avoid pressuring them to make a decision on what I was proposing; C-type personalities like to take their time and review all the information before making a choice.
On the other hand, imagine you’re presenting to an i-type person. They’re impulsive, big picture sorts. I wouldn’t want to burden this colleague with too much detail - chances are, what excites them is hearing the impact of my proposal. They want to know that things are moving, so I might want to get their decision during our meeting and get things started.
That’s just a brief introduction to how this kind of personality profiling can help in your workday; you can go a lot deeper - and find out where you land - on the DiSC Profile site. No-one is just any one category, and it’s no substitute for simple human empathy.
But thinking in this way about the people around us helps me see the world from their perspective. It makes me stop and consider how I treat people, relating to them in the way that they’d prefer, not just how I assume they’d like.