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Communicating with Style: How to get Enhanced Results with People
By Rich Meiss • Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Improving Organizational Results through Effective Communication- Article 3

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.  And this behavioral style affects our communications – how we listen and how we talk.

To understand our communication style, we are going to look at the DISC model of behavior along a continuum, which we will label pace and priority.  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 horizontal 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. 

                                    D               Faster Paced                 I




                                   C              Slower Paced                S


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. 

The horizontal 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 and communication style.  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, corrective or calculating. 

Each person is made up of some combination of all four of these behaviors. Most people, however, 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 (Directer) is decisive, results-oriented, competitive, independent and strong-willed.  The directer’s communication style is direct and assertive.  They tend to be loud and confident.  He/she likes challenges and prefers a fast-paced environment.  He or she fears being taken advantage of.  To increase their communication effectiveness, directers need to develop more patience, slow down, and socialize more.  Developing patience will also help them focus on people as well as tasks.

The Interacting style (Interacter) is enthusiastic, persuasive, people-oriented, stimulating and talkative.  The interacter is motivated by people contact and an open, accepting environment.  Their communication style utilizes lots of words and gestures.  They love to talk, and often in a loud voice. To increase their communication effectiveness, interacters need to learn to be brief and low-key, and focus on tasks as well as relationships.

The Supporting style (Supporter) is dependable, agreeable, amiable and calm.  The supporter is motivated by stability and prefers an organized, secure environment.  They tend to be more reserved and quiet. To increase their communication effectiveness, supporters need to be more decisive, say “no” more easily, and develop greater comfort with change.  They need to be more assertive and more verbal.

The Calculating style (Calculaters) are accurate, persistent, cautious and perfectionistic.  The calculater is motivated by control and accuracy, and prefers an environment that maintains high standards.  Calculaters tend to speak only after careful thought, so they can seem slow to respond.  Their speech is usually slow and calculated.  They can increase their communication effectiveness by being more open and friendly, and focusing on people as much as tasks.

Communicating Effectively with Directers

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.

In communicating with a director, speak quickly and forcefully.  Be willing to share and confront them with your own ideas, rather than just allowing them to command the conversation.  Be a good listener AND be quick to interject your own thoughts and ideas.

Style examples in a traffic jam:

·         Directers would be honking the horn and weaving in and out of traffic, trying to get to their destination. 

·         Interacters would be on their cell phones, checking out what is going on, or would have their windows rolled down and be getting to know their neighbors.  

·         Supporters, being more practical in nature, would probably have a book along,    and would be catching up on some reading.    

·         Calculaters would have a map out, trying to figure out another route to take so they would not be in this same fix tomorrow.

The good news is that there is no right or wrong style, each is just different.

Communicating Effectively with Interacters

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.

To communicate effectively with them, allow them time to talk, but be willing to interject and share your ideas.  Ask them to clarify what they heard, to make sure they also understood your points.  Speak with more emphasis and gestures, matching their enthusiastic tone and style.  Be open and informal.

Style examples in a grocery store:

·         Interacters would be saying hello to everyone they meet, and maybe making a sale or making a friend at the checkout counter.

·         Directers would be rushing through the aisles, grabbing whatever looks good and quickly moving to the checkout lane.

·         Supporters would have a list of needed items, and would be methodically going from aisle to aisle to get all their groceries.

·         Calculaters would maybe have their calculator with them, and would be checking the best price on each item as well as the ingredients in each product.

Remember that there is no good or bad style, each is just different.

Communicating Effectively with Supporters


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 supporters 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 communicating with supporters, recognize that they’ll be very willing to listen to you, so you may have to coax them to talk.  Be patient in allowing them to express their ideas and opinions.  For important decisions, allow them the opportunity to “sleep on it”, as they’ll be more comfortable with the outcome if they have time to decide.

Style examples if someone has moved the office furniture over the weekend:

·         Supporters will say, “Gee, I was just getting used to it the way it was!”

·         Directers will say, “Great, it should have been done weeks ago!”

·         Interacters will not notice the furniture has been moved, because they are so busy interacting with people.

·         Calculaters will not say anything at first, but later will ask:  “Why did they move it, and who authorized the move?”

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to react, people are just different!

Communicating Effectively with Calculaters

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.

To communicate more effectively with them, be factual and objective.  Try to share as much information as possible – they like to be “in the know”.  Be more formal and precise, as this will appeal to their style.

Style examples when putting together a new bicycle:

·         Calculaters would first carefully check that all the parts are there, read through all the instructions, and then put the bike together according to the instructions.

·         Directers would just start putting the bike together, even though they may end up with a few extra parts.

·         Interacters would have some friends over for a party, and find some supporters and calculaters to assemble the bike for them.

·         Supporters would begin with the first instruction, follow it to completion, and then go on with each succeeding instruction.

Remember that there is no good or bad style, each is just unique!

After discovering your communication style, strengths and limitations, maximize your new self-understanding by following these guidelines:

1.      Honor and celebrate your strengths!  Put yourself in situations where you can often use your strengths – both in work and social settings.

2.      Minimize your limitations.  Continue to look for ways to develop yourself in the areas you are weakest in, but more often avoid putting yourself into situations where your strengths cannot be used.

3.      Surround yourself with others whose strengths complement yours.

4.       Create a team of people who can each utilize their natural strengths and therefore get the job done.  The most effective communication teams will include the strengths of each style – Directers, Interacters, Supporters, and Calculaters.  


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