Updated: Sep 24
Every great movie is full of conflict. Great characters reveal themselves through their behavior under stress. Just like the movies, all sorts of conflict arises at work. Our effectiveness in resolving it depends on skill in handling relationships.
DISC is a survey that can help people understand their personality styles and behavioral trends. In this way, it’s somewhat similar to other personality tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test or the Enneagram Test. Taking a DISC assessment is a great way to understand your management, personal, or conflict styles.
Our style strongly influences how we respond to the pressure of processes and/or people not working out as expected. Two High “D’s” work through issues in an entirely different way than any other style combinations.
As in the movie “Lean on Me,” the school superintendent and principal (both high Ds) argue almost violently, raise their voices, use foul language, show challenging, even threatening body language. Yet when it is over and a decision is made, they leave together. When the argument is over, it’s over.
The same behaviors would have so greatly antagonized any of the other three styles that they probably would walk out, quit, or just stop participating in the argument and become dangerously passively aggressive.
Potential Blind Spots – Your Good Intentions
Other aspects of your DISC profile strongly influence behaviors you choose to use in the midst of conflict. The High “I” style prefers behaviors that are open and direct. They use animated verbal and body language to persuade others. The person with a very low “I” factor strongly prefers guarded, careful, and precise language, without animation, that reflects a rational, logical, and analytical approach to persuasion. Both people may have nothing but good intentions to resolve the conflict and they do not see how their behaviors antagonize the other.
The approach of the High “I” can easily lead the Low “I” to see their behavior as manipulative, non-genuine, and may lead them away from resolution rather than toward it. The behavior of the Low “I” may convince the High “I” that there is no real intention to resolve the issue and that the Low “I” prefers to win a debate rather than work together to resolve the problem.
Star Trek, the old and new, gets tremendous impact from emphasizing characters that demonstrate the highlights of one DISC style. Mr. Spock has for more than 50 years entertained us with his High “C” / Low “I” way of solving problems and sorting out conflict. Captain Kirk is given more complexity with a combination High “D” and High “I” styles. His Low “C” contrasts perfectly with Spock. They make a great team until they have conflict with each other. When they do disagree (and they always must), Kirk’s impulsive need to act always wins over Spock’s need to think things through.
Adaptability Leads To Effectiveness
But we aren’t having movieland conflict at work. And we aren’t one or two-dimensional characters. Each of us has elements of all four DISC styles and knowledge of the needs of each style can enormously help in resolving conflict. We can be prepared to appropriately adapt our style to work with the high or low needs of another style.
The High “D” may have to restrain their desire for quick and decisive action and patiently work with the High “S” or High “C” that typically is much less direct, more guarded, and needs to process decisions at a pace that allows for open consideration of risk and the changes involved in decisions.
The High “S” typically reacts to conflict as a negative – something to avoid. They prefer the steady, predictable environment where their deliberate style is effective. Conflict with a High “D” or “I” who may race through the issue, apply high pressure to quickly resolve it, may lead to withdrawal for the “S.” The “D” or “I’s” demonstrative body language, passionate wording can look like impulsiveness to the “S”. Adapting to others is hard work – the High “S” is challenged to make the conscious choice to adapt or coach the other styles to adapt to them. Tough options.
The Low “D” may need to recognize the need to speak up and become more assertive in order to help a team make progress rather than swirl around a difficult decision. The Low “C” may need to slow down to recognize the value that the High “C” or High “S” contributes and not try to run over them in the process of negotiating a resolution.
Understanding your DISC style and the style of others goes a long way in working toward a mutual, trusting resolution to a conflict.