Today, I led a DISC communication skills workshop that ended with a role-play exercise to allow participants the opportunity to practice the skills we had been discussing.
For many of the people in the class, this was their first in-depth exposure to the DISC model and how to use it to more effectively communicate with others. The class was lively, engaged, and energetic with everyone in the room displaying a highly positive approach to learning. And, the role-play exercise brought to the surface a common frustration many people feel as they learn to apply the concepts I teach for becoming a better communicator.
As people attempted to “put on” the style of another person during the role-play, many of them felt awkward. Their role-play partners sensed this awkwardness. As a result, the participants attempts to connect with people with a different natural behavior style actually decreased the connection between them rather than increasing it.
They were frustrated. I was encouraged.
I was encouraged because they were making a genuine effort to connect with other people in a way that would make the recipient of the communication attempt feel most comfortable. Even though the results were not all that great initially, the effort to bridge the difference gap encouraged me.
They saw their efforts as failures. I saw their efforts as natural parts of the learning process.
A model for learning I often use speaks of learning happening in four stages:
- Unconscious incompetence
The “I don't know that I don't know” stage.
- Conscious incompetence
The “I realize that I don't know something” stage.
- Conscious competence
The “I understand how to do this, and I have to think about it to make it work” stage.
- Unconscious competence
The “this has become natural to me and I don't have to think about it any more” stage.
In attempting to apply the learning from the session, they were confronted with both the difficulty and awkwardness of learning to apply a new skill.
When I talked with them about the skills and they asked me questions, my answers seemed rather simple and effortless to them. For me, the answers were simple and effortless. In many situations, I have achieved (after much struggle and many failures) the unconscious competence level of learning for this material.
They are at the uncomfortable level of learning somewhere between conscious incompetence and conscious competence.
To break through this frustration, I encouraged them to keep at it even though the communication approach felt odd. I also encouraged them to seek feedback from other people about how their communication efforts were progressing. For example, I told people with Dominant traits to seek feedback from people with Supportive traits and vice-versa.
If you want to master using the DISC model to become a better communicator, I encourage you to do the same thing. Keep practicing and getting feedback on your efforts. You will eventually break through the awkwardness of trying to put on another person's communication style to the comfort of authentically communicating by understanding their communication style.