Our last Delfi Post described the simple DISC model of understanding how we differ from each other in our personal and relationship behavior styles. We learned that there are 4 main behavioral style categories built around two behavior dimensions: fast-paced and outspoken vs cautious and reflective; and questioning and skeptical vs accepting and warm. Today I want to explore two of these styles (Dominance and Steadiness) in greater detail and specifically, how people with either of these strong tendencies can use this information to reduce the relationship collisions or frictions that they might experience in relating to others in the opposite style.
A person solid in the Dominant style is characterized by a powerful personal drive, strong will, a focus on results, a firm and forceful style, a track record of impatience , with a general attitude of ‘Get it Done’. Words like ‘action’, ‘results’ and ‘challenging or skeptical’ are often the best descriptors of how the Dominant style interacts with others. People in the Dominant style are often seen as driven, competitive, outspoken and somewhat forceful or blunt by others who do not share this style.
People who are solid in the Steadiness style are soft spoken, tactful, accommodating and unassertive. Although consistently strong performers, a person with this style is seldom seen to be shaking things up with daring ideas, or overly results-driven. The person is seen more as humble, collaborative, a team player, patient, and somewhat hesitant to make decisions.
Now let’s put Dominant and Steadiness together in an important project or emotional conversation and see how it goes. If they are not aware of each other’s style and how to work with the differences from their own style, then it is pretty safe to assume that sparks will fly and the exchange will be difficult and unpleasant. Their styles are completely opposite to one another – and neither is likely to be very appreciative of the interaction behaviors of the other. However, we will often find ourselves in a situation where we need to interact with someone very different than ourselves. We may elect not to be the best of friends socially – but we may have to work together on the job – or on a community project. And then again – we may be married to each other. So how can we constructively approach this situation of ‘difference’?
Carefully. First – both must recognize and accept that they are bringing two very different styles of interpersonal behavioral and interaction to the meeting. Both styles are legitimate and equally valuable in our society – and the one is not automatically wrong or bad because it is different than the other.
Second – both must recognize that each is capable of stretching his style a little towards the other to find an acceptable road to walk down together. Styles are natural tendencies – but not totally restrictive behavior patterns. An analogy of an elastic band is appropriate here. With a little focus and energy, both parties can stretch their natural styles to a different place in order to find that acceptable road to walk down – at least until the task or communication is completed. It takes energy – but if both agree to stretch the elastic a little, it can be done and it can allow the task or interaction to proceed to a satisfactory completion.
What would the “fly-on-the-wall” interested observer see happening in a constructive encounter? Our Dominant player would be seen to be dialing back a little on the energy and drive and the impatience level to achieve the end result. Dominant would take the time to listen to the ideas of Steadiness, express appreciation for the ideas offered and search out ways to move ahead to a resolution in a timely manner. Although Dominant may have different ideas on the issue than Steadiness, he will take the time to hear and explore the details put forward, and if necessary, any disagreement will be expressed in a controlled and tactful manner, offering related ideas that would be more acceptable. Dominant would close the encounter with an expression of appreciation for the effort taken to reach a viable practical solution in a timely manner.
Our Steadiness player would be seen to be moving ahead at a slighter more hurried pace than normal comfort would allow. Steadiness would actively engage in, rather than simply watch, the events as they unfold. The temptation to view disagreement as personal rejection or as being offensive will be resisted, and the normal preference to making an overly cautious study of the options will be scaled back to enable a timely decision to be made. Steadiness would express appreciation for the opportunity to be involved in the discussion and to be able to contribute to a workable outcome.
There is no perception of winner or loser in this exchange because our two players reached an agreement on how to move forward on their issue, and are able to exit the exchange with a working relationship still intact – and possibly even strengthened. With a little effort, people who have very different styles can find a constructive way to interact. It takes self awareness of one’s own preferred style of behavior, a sensitivity to how the other person’s style is different, and a willingness and determination to stretch styles enough to get the job done without bruising relationships.
As mentioned in the previous post, there are inexpensive assessment instruments available, with high scientific reliability and validity scores, that can help anyone get a better understanding of their personal style. There are workplaces that find high value in making these assessments available to all employees for better relationships with peers, clients and suppliers. Enlightened couples often make the small investment to better understand their partner and themselves.
The next Delfi Post will look at the other two totally contrasting behavior styles with a similar scenario analysis.