Guy Answers the Question:
Can Four Styles Really Describe Everyone?
One question that frequently comes up when I teach the DISC model is this:
“Can you really describe everyone with just four styles?”
The short answer is: yes, you can describe all the behaviors and perspectives of all people using information revealed by understanding the four DISC style descriptors.*
Sometimes people take exception to this simple answer. When they do, I usually get challenged with something like:
“There are 6 billion people on the planet, you can't possibly define all of them with four letters/categories.”
To which, I reply: “You're right. I can't define all people with four letters or categories. I can, though, use four basic style descriptors to create a frame of reference that allows me to understand them better when we interact.”
Here are some observations to support this position.
We Regularly Use Only Two Categories to Describe All People
There are two broad categories that we use every day to describe all people on the planet: male and female.
The studies of male vs. female perspectives I have read indicate that men tend to share perspectives on certain issues, women tend to share perspectives on these same issues, and men tend to have different perspectives from women on the issues in question.
The results in the studies point to general perspective similarities only on the issues evaluated in the study. It would be a wrong application of the study results to say that all men or all women think, feel, or behave a certain way in all situations. It is okay to say that the studies reveal tendencies and similarities in the perspectives evaluated in the studies.
I am not a woman. When I read the study results about the perspectives many women have on certain issues, I frankly don't get it. I understand it intellectually. I just don't relate to the perspective.
When I interact with my wife, I can use my understanding of the study results to better understand the true intent of her words and actions. I can attempt to view her behavior through her lens rather than through mine. I don't want to stereotype her with the results. I just want to use the study results to get an emotional hook that allows me to “get” what she is saying in a different way than I would “get” it if I had no way to reframe what I was hearing and seeing.
We Use Only 26 Letters to Define the English Language
I don't know the exact number of words used in the English language. I have heard that it is greater than 1 million words. And still, all of them are fully defined with only 26 letters.
What Does All This Have to do With the Question We Began With?
I don't want to categorize, label, or box-in anyone. I don't want to tell people what job they are or are not qualified to pursue because of their behavior style. I don't want to psychoanalyze them. I just want to understand them so that I can connect and communicate better.
The four DISC behavioral styles simply reveal tendencies and patterns in behaviors and perceptions. They do not neatly define another person.They do provide guidance and insight to understanding other perspectives that happen to be different from mine.
I see the DISC model as a sort of alphabet that helps me to understand people more fully than I would if I was stuck with only my viewpoint as a filter for understanding them.
When you really understand the model and it's application, you learn that there are far more than four “categories” to use for that understanding. (I don't really like the word category in this context. It's just the simplest word I can find at the moment.)
When you consider the different simple combinations of the four DISC descriptors, you quickly arrive at 41 generalized style “types.”
For example, I have a strong blend of Cautious, Dominant, and Supportive traits. None of the three fully describes my viewpoint. The combination of the three traits gets pretty close. Likewise, my wife has a strong blend of Dominant, Inspiring, and Cautious traits. When I look at that combination of traits, it gets pretty close to describing how she usually responds to situations.
To take it one step deeper, you could consider the various levels of intensities of the four styles that any given person might exhibit. When you do that, you get 19,680 different Basic DISC style graphs. I don't intend to go deeply into these subtleties here.
And, I haven't even begun to comment on what you learn from the Environmental DISC style graphs or by understanding “low styles” like the “I” trait shown in my DISC profile graph to the right.
All of this simply makes the point that the simple little DISC model of human behavior has much more depth than most people see when they first encounter it.
When people use the model to define another person or to limit their potential, they use the model as a weapon. They are stereotyping and labeling. Both of which, I think, are wrong. These are really good strategies if you want to irritate someone with the DISC model.
When people use the model to create an understanding of another person's perspective, they use the model as a tool. They are connecting and communicating more effectively. Both of which, I think, are good.
To me, the beauty of the model lies in its simplicity. Its simplicity helps me to remember it when the pressure hits. It helps me to quickly explain it to others when the time is right.
The depth of the model gives me confidence that I can, with study and practice, learn to use it to strengthen and deepen all of my relationships.
*When I say “all people,” I am referring to all people who fall into what you could call “normal human psychology.” Which means, people with no clinical psychological disorder. This would be something like 90-95% of the people on the planet. Not truly everyone, but most people I encounter on a daily basis.
This article is from the DISC FAQ's series. Use the links below to read more from this series.
- DISC Model FAQ's: Can Four Styles Really Describe Everyone?
- DISC Model FAQ's: Could I Have More Than One DISC Behavior Style?
- DISC Model FAQ's: Can I Have One DISC Style at Work and Another DISC Style at Home?
- DISC Model FAQ's: Is One Style Better Than the Others?
- DISC Model FAQ's: Can Your Personality Style Change Over Time
- DISC Model Frequently Asked Questions
- DISC Model FAQ's: Is Changing Your Behavior Phoney?
- DISC FAQ's: Can I Change My Personality Style On Purpose?
- A DISC Model Question You Should Ask of Yourself
- Effective Communication Skills: How to Quickly Guess a Person’s DISC Style
- Why I Use The DISC Model