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Personal Style- Why Do You Do What You Do?
By Rich Meiss • Friday, February 8, 2008

The People Puzzle Series V: Puzzle Piece #3 
Shakespeare said that all the world’s a stage and all of us are players on it. If you consider a play you have seen or have been a part of, you know that everything on the stage – the dialogue, the lighting, the music, the props and the costumes – are all designed to convey a message. Our life, too, conveys a message. Everything we say, do, or don’t do expresses who we are. And it is our behavior, more than anything else, that communicates to others who we are in any given moment.
Emerson said: “What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you are saying.” It is our actions, our behavior that often reveals things about us we are not even aware we are expressing. Many of us would be surprised to know what other people really think about us. We may interject information in a conversation that we think is helpful, while the other person thinks we are interrupting and rude. Or we may be in a socializing mood and lead the conversation – thinking we are funny and entertaining, while the other person thinks we are vain and “full of ourselves”. And sometimes our perceptions of others are misinformed as well. Someone is really trying to be a good listener, and we perceive them to be unusually shy and quiet.
Why does such miscommunication happen? Aside from our given physical appearance and body language, we have developed a unique way of expressing our feelings and emotions in the way that we behave. This way of expression has helped us develop our sense of identity and becomes our way of being.
For that reason we might consider Karen quiet or shy because she said very little, while we discern Tom to be friendly and outgoing because of his talkative nature. And we might judge Donna as being assertive by reason of her forceful nature, while we perceive Dean as being rigid and controlling because of the way he expressed himself.
Different Does Not Equal Wrong
Each of us acts the way we do for a variety of reasons. This is perfectly normal. However, even slight differences often become barriers between us. The real source of our conflict, however, is not in our differences. Conflict happens when we have accepted, sometimes unknowingly, that “different equals wrong”. Actually, this is a symptom of a belief system based on winning and losing. The first step in resolving a conflict is to move out of win-lose and into win-win. And one of the best ways to do that is to realize that different equals wrong can be changed to “different is simply different”.
So what shapes our behavior? Why do I do what I do and why do others do what they do? This question has fascinated people throughout the ages. Early observers compared human behavior to the four elements of nature: earth, fire, water and air. Earth was firm and dominating, fire was bright and animated, water was calm and peaceful, and air was clear and detached.
Temperament and Type
Some 400 years before Christ, Hippocrates theorized that a person’s style, or “temperament” as he called it, was determined by which humor (inner fluid) dominated that person, Yellow bile was “choleric”, blood was “sanguine”, phlegm was “phlegmatic”, and black bile was “melancholic”. While not very appetizing or accurate, the characteristics identified for each of these temperaments made sense then and have largely been validated by more recent research.
In the 20th Century, Austrian Psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung did extensive research on this topic, culminating in his book published in 1921 called Psychological Types. His work was the most scientific ever done on this topic, and he described the types as Intuitor, Thinker, Feeler, and Sensor. Jung’s work was the basis for the popular modern personality assessment instrument called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Working at about the same time across the ocean, American Psychologist William Marston at Columbia University published a book called The Emotions of Normal People. Marston theorized that human behavior could be studied on a two-axis model, and he came up with the four styles of Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. His work was further developed into the modern DISC assessment instrument. 
We have chosen to utilize the DISC information to help you understand your behavior and the behavior of others because of its user-friendliness and its validity. While we won’t go into an in-depth analysis, we will give you a basic understanding to help you complete your life’s puzzle. For a more thorough analysis, you may wish to complete a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment or a Personal Profile System (DISC) assessment. 
The DISC Model of Human Behavior
Contemporary researchers have discovered that each person has a pattern of behavior that starts to form early in life. For most people, this behavioral pattern is pretty well in place by the time they start school. No one can say for sure just what percentage of this pattern is inherited and what proportion is learned. But we all have developed a natural way to behave with other people and situations.
For purposes of this exercise, we are going to look at the DISC model along two continuums of behavior, which we will label pace and priority. We will plot pace and priority along an axis. At the top of the horizontal axis are those people who tend to have a faster pace about them. They are often competitive, and express their ideas and beliefs openly and forcefully. They like to tell others what to do. At the bottom of the vertical axis are those people who tend to have a slower pace about them. They tend to be more cooperative, and tend to ask more than tell. 
                                    Faster Paced
                                     Slower Paced
Please understand that there is no right or wrong, good or bad place to be on this scale. Each place is just different. The position each person occupies on the scale depends largely on the traits he or she inherited and on early learning and programming. This has nothing to do with values and intelligence, subjects that we study in other parts of this book. It has nothing to do with honesty and integrity, abilities, or even good mental health. Remember from the title of Marston’s book that we are looking here at the emotions of “normal” people.
The next continuum looks at priority. On the left side of the continuum are those whose main priority is tasks. They tend to be more formal in their approach to things, and are more controlled in their expression. On the right side are those whose main priority is people. They tend to be more informal in their approach and more self-expressive. They will often share their emotions freely with those around them, while those on the left of the continuum are not comfortable revealing their deeper feelings.
  Task Oriented __________________ People Oriented
      (Formal)                                         (Informal)
As in the previous example, there is no one best place to be. This has nothing to do with a person’s emotional maturity, abilities or commitments. It has to do with a person’s comfort in expressing their emotions and their priority around task or people. Remember, different does not equal wrong, different just equals different.
By putting these two continuums together, we have now formed a four quadrant system by which we can characterize behavior. We will call the upper left hand quadrant the “D” behavior, or directing. The upper right hand quadrant is the “I” behavior, or interacting. The lower right hand quadrant is “S” behavior, or supporting, and the lower left hand quadrant is “C” behavior, or calculating. Each person is made up of some combination of all four of these behaviors; however most people tend to have a more prominent style and then maybe a secondary and tertiary style.
The Directing, Interacting, Supporting and Calculating Styles
A Directing style (Director) is decisive, results-oriented, competitive, independent and strong-willed. These strengths when over-used can become domineering, harsh, tough, impatient, and pushy. The Director is motivated by challenges and prefers a fast-paced environment. He or she fears being taken advantage of. To increase their effectiveness, Directors need to develop more patience and learn to slow down and socialize.
The Interacting style (Interacter) is enthusiastic, persuasive, people-oriented, stimulating and talkative. These strengths overused can appear to be undisciplined, excitable, disorganized, manipulative, and reactive. The Interacter is motivated by people contact and an open, accepting environment. They fear a loss of influence. To increase their effectiveness, Interacters need to develop more objectivity, be more organized, and learn to be brief and low-key.
The Supporting style (Supporter) is dependable, agreeable, amiable and calm. These strengths overused come across as unsure, insecure, wishy-washy, and conforming. The Supporter is motivated by stability and prefers an organized, secure environment. To increase their effectiveness, Supporters need to be more decisive, say “no” more easily, and develop greater comfort with change.
The Calculating style (Calculaters) are accurate, persistent, cautious and perfectionistic. These strengths when overused look like critical, picky, judgmental, and slow to make decisions. The Calculater is motivated by control and accuracy, and prefers an environment that maintains high standards. Their fear is criticism of their work. Calculaters can increase their effectiveness by being more open and tolerant of themselves and others, and by developing an acceptance of realistic limitations.
In article four we will explore our values, which we often call the “should do’s” of our life. It is what we believe is expected of us. The behavioral style information in this chapter is the “would do’s” of our life, or what is most natural for us. By learning both your DISC behavioral style (your “would do’s”) and your values information (your “should do’s”), you will have a better understanding of why you do what you do, and then you can work to better understand others when you have their information.
How to Interact Successfully With Each Style
When dealing with a directing style person, provide possibilities for them to get results, solve problems, or be in charge. Stress the logic of ideas or approaches. Whenever possible, get them into a discussion about their goals and end results. Remember that Directers can be demanding and competitive. They will tend to tell you what is happening, and want to be in control. Help them meet these needs.
When dealing with an interacting style person, allow them to express their hunches or ideas. Provide ideas for transferring talk to action. 
Allow time for fun activities and creative ideas. Provide incentives for them, and avoid confrontation if at all possible. Remember that Interacters can be excitable and stimulating. They will want to be the center of attention and have the opportunity to interact with people.
When dealing with a supporting style person, show them sincere interest and recognition. Be patient in drawing out their goals and needs. Present new ideas in a non-threatening manner, giving them time to adjust to change. Remember that Supporters tend to be soft-spoken and team oriented, wanting to include everyone. They like recognition but do not need to be the center of attention.
When dealing with a calculating style person, be prepared to answer their questions in a patient and persistent manner. If you disagree, make sure to disagree with the facts, not the person. Give them permission to make changes based on their standards. Remember that Calculaters can be cautious and sensitive. They tend to ask probing questions and like to plan ahead.
DISC dimensions of behavior provides a non-judgmental language for exploring personal behavior.   Individuals who know and understand their style can capitalize on their strengths, enhance personal effectiveness, and improve relationships.
The DISC Personal Styles Survey ($6.00) is easy to use and provides people an insight into their behavioral style – how and why they do the things they do.  Free shipping if you mention this article when placing your order for the survey.
© Copyright 2008. Meiss Education Institute. All rights reserved.
Visit our web site at for information about the DISC Personal Styles Survey and other self-assessment tools.

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