The DISC Model of Human Behavior – A Quick Overview

DISC-Circle-Gray-Background-Sept12As a teenager and young adult, I thought people were totally irrational and unpredictable. In my thirties, I learned about patterns of behavior that people tend to follow in many areas of their lives and in many situations.

Understanding these patterns helped me to realize that people are not totally irrational. Most people simply see the world, prioritize their activities, communicate with others, and act according to relatively predictable patterns of behavior.

The model I learned, and eventually studied to the point of becoming a master trainer, is the DISC model of human behavior.

Before we even get into this post too deeply, I want to emphasize the statement that people tend to do things in predictable ways. I do not mean anything in this post to box people in, label people, or to imply that any of us can know everything about any other person merely by understanding their primary behavioral style (actually styles). Still, understanding the model can form a strong basis for learning to communicate with and understand other people in better and more effective ways.

That being said, here’s a brief overview of how the model describes our behaviors. I’ll be writing more over time. I hope you’ll check back in the future for more posts on this topic.

The foundation for the DISC model comes from the work of a Harvard psychologist named Dr. William Moulton Marston in the 1920’s. He developed a theory that people tend to develop a self-concept based on one of four factors — Dominance, Inducement, Steadiness, or Compliance. This idea forms the basis for the DISC theory as it is commonly applied today.

Later psychologists and behavioral specialists developed a variety of practical tools to apply Marston’s theory. Currently, there are many assessment and measurement tools based on the DISC model.

One way to describe the DISC model is see it as a circle, representing the full range of normal human behavior, divided into quadrants as described below.

Divide a circle in half horizontally. The upper half represents outgoing or fast-paced people. The lower half represents reserved or slower-paced people. Outgoing people tend to move fast, talk fast, and decide fast. Reserved people tend to speak more slowly and softer than outgoing people, and they generally prefer to consider things thoroughly before making a decision.

Outgoing-Reserved

The circle can also be divided vertically. The left half represents task-oriented people. The right half represents people-oriented people. Task-oriented people tend to focus on logic, data, results and projects. People-oriented people tend to focus on experiences, feelings, relationships, and interactions with other people.

Task-People

Combining these two circles completes the model description…

DISC-Diagram

D
- type individuals are outgoing and task-oriented. They tend to be Dominant and Decisive. They usually focus on results and the bottom-line.
I
- type individuals are outgoing and people-oriented. They tend to be Inspiring and Influencing. They usually focus on talking and having fun.
S
- type individuals are reserved and people-oriented. They tend to be Supportive and Steady. They usually focus on peace and harmony.
C
- type individuals are reserved and task-oriented. They tend to be Cautious and Conscientious. They usually focus on facts and rules.

This post is intended as a brief introduction to the DISC model. I’ll be writing more in the future. If you would like to get an estimate of your primary behavioral styles, check my Free DISC Profile site.


Comments

  1. florian borromeo says

    I find this topic a very useful tool. In fact we already did an exercise almost the same principle like this. In my own opinion I believed that we do have these 4 different character traits but there is always one from these 4 different character traits that we are most likely be or who we are. From time to time the result will change as influenced by some external factors.

  2. Marc says

    Like the MBTI, DISC is just an indication of the preferred way an individual has to handle a situation. One should be cautious about how to use it as the results are not cast in stone and an individual might have different results answering the tests at different time of his life. There are also lots of controversy about those tests and what they are suppose to demonstrate but more particularly about their application.

    In Singapore for instance, some employer, “force” their employee to go through the DISC test during so called bonding retreat, then group people based on their DISC result – which is already a form of segregation in itself, after which their organize so called “fun” competitive activities and “observe” the results…

    You couldn’t do better if you were to want to turn your employee into lab-rats and debate who has the potential of being a leader…..

    unfortunately, like in many cases, the science of understanding human being has turned into a business and it exist a plethora of companies with “good intentions” willing to organize for you staff bonding activities based on personality tests..money money money money, nothing less, nothing more…..

    • says

      Hi Marc,

      Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that personality assessments are nothing more than indications of preferred ways of doing things. As I said in the post, the model gives an insight into tendencies (you could also say preferences) in an individual’s behavioral patterns. And, people can behave differently in different situations.

      As I say several times in other posts (DISC FAQ’s), the model should not be used to label a person or to define them. It should, instead, be used as a tool for understanding their perspective and as an aid to building a stronger relationship. I think, as you indicated, that the problem lies not with the tool itself but with the application of the tool.

      The DISC model is just an observation about human nature and human behavior. It has no moral or ethical standing on its own. It is just like any other tool.

      For example, I can use a hammer to build a house or to attack my neighbor. In both cases, the hammer is just a hammer. Whether it is good or bad lies in the heart and in the intentions of the person using the tool and not in the tool itself.

      Used well, the DISC model builds and enhances relationships. Used poorly, it destroys them.

      As for the “money, money” part of your comment. I, personally, see nothing wrong with offering a service that has the potential to help people and getting paid for the service.

      I believe that service providers are obligated to do their best to apply the information accurately and within its limitations while they are present and to make the limitations of anything they teach known to their clients. And, at the same time, I think the client assumes responsibility for how they apply the information after they have learned it.

      I like to be very careful with regard to assuming that I know another person’s intentions. I guess that’s a by-product of working as a consultant and trainer of conflict resolution, communication, leadership, and team dynamics skills.

      Thanks again for contributing to the conversation.

      Guy

  3. says

    DiSC is one way of identifying a personality of individual, knowing that you will be able to interact with them, communicate with them easily. Since DiSC gives you an idea of one’s behavior you can cooperate with them which will lead them to do things better. But this doesn’t mean we already judged them.
    It’s an OVERVIEW!

    • says

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I agree completely. DISC is a useful tool for understanding others better. It does not totally describe a person’s perspective. It only gives us a way to try looking at the world the way that they do so we can connect and communicate more effectively.

  4. says

    Nice post. I enjoy reading it, It shows the importance of using DISC tools. The different categories were clearly defined. And I myself realize what category I will fall on. In my point of view, DiSC is one of the key to success with regards to business specifically the employees because knowledge of each person’s unique behaviors can be use, to effectively maximize their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Thank you.

Trackbacks

  1. […] In one way or another, I have commented on this common difference between people in this blog and in other articles. It seems that I have, in many cases, made the point in an indirect way. Today, I thought I would make a more explicit observation about one of the common differences between task-oriented people and people-oriented people (from the DISC model): […]

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