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Personality differences in the communication process

Three employees talk to each other, thus improving their communication process

What are personality-related preferences and why it is important to know about them in the communication context? If we make an in-depth analysis of interpersonal relations and communication processes, both on personal and professional level, it becomes clear that one of the greatest challenges are communication problems. These problems can take various forms. We often hear about arising misunderstandings, we notice differences in communication styles among team members, and see how the message understood differs from the message intended. These problems must not be neglected. They are part of our everyday life, so it is important to learn how to overcome them.

In this article you will find out:

  1. Why we are different and whether we can do something about it?
  2. What the 4 types of behavior / communication are according to the DISC model?
  3. How to communicate more effectively?
Human behavior is directly related to our personality. As psychology sees it, personality is a combination of character (learned habits and temper) and the behaviors we acquire throughout our life. Personality is also determined by several other factors. On one hand, there are particular genetic conditions, and on the other hand: aspects that have developed as a result of our interactions with the surroundings.

To keep it short: personality is a mix of genes and other characteristics that we acquire throughout life. Since we are conceived, till we are old.

Yet, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing we can do to change aspects of our personality that we are not happy about. Our brain is plastic and open. As we grow, we learn certain schematic behaviors, habits and reaction to different situations. With enough effort on our side, we can however change these behaviors, broaden our capabilities and replace unwanted habits with new ones.

The argument: „This is what I am like and there is nothing I can do about it” is no longer accepted.

OK, so what am I really like?

To answer this question psychological and psychometric tests might prove useful, as they diagnose our personality-related preferences. There´s always been a lot of interest in behavior styles. Hippocrates described four different types of temper (choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine), and Aristotle spoke of four elements. However, what really started the analysis of human personality was the personality types theory by C.G. Jung, who believed that people have different preferences which makes them perceive a given situation from different perspectives. What does it mean? It means yes, we are different, which directly influences our communication with others as well as our social interactions.

Today, based on the 4-area assessment model of human behavior (DISC), we are going to try to describe our preferred behavior styles (communication processes). In other words, how we react to external stimuli and how we communicate with others!

Are you a D, I, S or C? Or perhaps it is easier if we ask about colors? Are you yellow, red, green or blue? Still not sure? Here’s the explanation!

The DISC model is based on the C.G. Jung theory, who divided behavior styles according to 2 opposing axes:

  1. Perception (5 senses) – Intuition
  2. Thoughts - Emotions

DISC four-zone human behaviour/communication model

With this division, four basic behavior styles were identified. The theory was further developed by William Marston, who defined a 4-dimensional map of human behavior. According to dr. W. Marston there are 4 communication styles and each of us is a mix of them all. However, every person has one dominant style, and the other 3 are merely complementary. What’s important is that the models don’t classify people as worse or better. They simply describe a natural/preferred form of reaction that a certain person will have in different situations. This description allows us to better understand ourselves and others, our behaviors, communication styles and processes, and in consequence – it gives us a possibility to modify or adjust them accordingly.

The 4-trait model of human behavior/ communication style – DISC

Let’s discuss each of the styles:

D – Dominance
D style- red

  • Focused on tasks
  • Finds it easy to make decisions
  • Focused on objectives
  • Can keep distance with others
  • Anxious when things stop moving

Motivated by challenges, competition, control and freedom

Communication style:

  • Often one-way (from him/her to the listeners)
  • They say exactly what they think
  • They present their opinions as facts.

I – Influence
I style – yellow

  • The life of the party
  • Talkative and optimist
  • Outgoing and friendly
  • Always focused on positive aspects
  • When he/she agrees with you they let you know
  • Encourages, motivates, inspires
  • Cares about friendly atmosphere and people

Motivated by the possibility to be around other people

Communication style:

  • Inspiring, knows how to “sell” things
  • Talkative
  • Avoids details, focused on the big picture
  • Speaks before thinking

S – Steadiness
S style – green

  • Patient and cautious
  • Excellent listener
  • Evokes trust
  • Calm, stable and systematic
  • Keeps a steady pace of work
  • Makes small changes without destroying the existing order

Motivated by well-defined tasks and instructions

Communication style:

  • Often one-way
  • Usually takes up the role of the listener
  • Speaks calmly
  • Prefers one-to-one conversations
  • Doesn’t speak, unless asked to

C – Compliance 
C style - blue

  • Precise and pedantic
  • Logical, analytical, careful
  • Formal and disciplined
  • Likes to keep things tidy (e.g. his/her desk)
  • Diplomatic and polite
  • Focused on details

Motivated by detailed planning and preparation of designated tasks

Communication style:

  • Prefers written communication
  • Doesn’t like to discuss opinions and abstract ideas
  • Focused on details, may lose the big picture

DISC model based on C theory. G. Jungai

Thinking about communication styles, both your own and other people’s, please keep in mind that we are a blend of those 4 behavior styles. This model should be treated dynamically, and not as an excuse to label people. Our communication style can be adjusted according to situations or people. Most likely you will find that all the four styles are somehow reflected in your personality, yet there is clearly a predominant (natural) one. It’s a little like writing: you find it easy to write with your preferred hand, either left or right, but if necessary, you can also write your name with the other one. Of course in terms of communication, this adjustment requires much more time and effort, but in the end we can do it for the sake of benefits it can bring.

How to improve our communication processes and be more effective?

Generally speaking, you can adjust your communication/ approach to the needs of other people. If someone needs many details or specific instructions – focus on that. If someone cares about building relationships, make an effort to be more outgoing and keep this need in mind.

I am not suggesting by any means to make major changes in your own personality. Your behavior should always be authentic and natural. Adjusting your behavior shouldn’t change who you really are. Yet, you can change your communication process, which will give you a better chance to deliver your message efficiently and effectively.

Speaking openly about our communicational needs and adjusting to the people around us allows for a more efficient and harmonious work. This is why it is so important to understand all the four styles and learn how to identify them in others. 

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