by Susan Stamm

Why do people do the things that they do? Does my husband labor over a detail to make me suffer or is perfection something that he feels is achievable? Does my son bring home papers from school after the events have all passed just to annoy me, or is he trying to meet some need of his own, something far more important to him than paying attention to details? We find the answer partially in our preferred behavioral approach.

One model of behavior that attempts to help us understand this is called DISC. The DISC model identifies four styles of people.

The “D” style stands for dominance.

Being a confessed “D” style, I have found myself on more than one occasion getting out of my car to direct traffic. Taking control of situations (and people) is characteristic of a person with this style. The “D” person moves quickly to take action, but quick decisions occasionally cause trouble. Recently, I deleted a clients voice mail message after thinking I had heard “enough” of the message, only to find out later that the client had left a home number at the end of the message.

The “I” style stands for influencing.

These folks are far more focused on people than tasks. The most verbal of all four styles, the I is a persuasive communicator. Always the optimist, the influencing style can have a problem with personal organization due to their extremely full calendar and wide range of personal interests. My son is a very strong “I” style, and will often point out the positive in any situation. Once he come home with a spelling test that had thirteen words spelled incorrectly. I gasped as I looked at the test which had a note from his teacher requesting that I call her. Sensing my concern, he patted my knee and said, “Don’t worry mom, it was a really good try.”

The “S” style is the steadiness style.

This style is very relational, but in a more reserved kind of way than the “I”. The “S” folks are very loyal, family oriented, and they are systematic organizers. They are the most naturally team-oriented of all the four styles and are always concerned how decisions and changes will affect others. My mother has lots of the “S” dimension in her style. She has the most organized closets and drawers in her home that I have ever seen, and her pictures are in albums! She has a drawer in her kitchen with all her spices and the top of each bottle is labeled for quick identification. By contrast, my closets look like they have just survived a small earthquake and my pictures are in various boxes and bags in several locations throughout my home.

The “C” style is the conscientious style.

A person drawing from this behavioral approach will be very concerned with accuracy, quality, and doing things right. This style is most concerned about following procedures and rules. The “C” style tends to be very analytical, task oriented and reserved. While the “D” and the “C” are both task oriented styles, the “D” wants to get results, but the “C” wants to do it right! My husband has a very strong “C” style, and he balances the books (thankfully) to the penny- he has been known to spend a few hours looking for a few cents that do not add up. Me? When things get really bad with my checkbook, I just close the account and open another with another bank. Fortunately with all the mergers in this industry, there is always a new bank in town with whom to do business.

So whose approach to life is right? Of course, we each know that if only the whole world was things the way we see them, all would be well, right? But, don’t we need each other because of these differences? Don’t these different approaches add richness and enable us to accomplish more?

The key to making it work is really understanding and respect. As we understand that our children, spouses, parents, and co-workers really do see the world a little differently, we then can understand that they approach life to meet their own behavioral needs. When we develop a respect and appreciation for our differences, we will begin to realize that different does not equal wrong; it just equals different. We can celebrate our own uniqueness and the uniqueness of each person in our personal and professional life.