Cracking the Code of Empathy: How DISC Personality Assessments Can Help You Speak the Same Language (Episode 297)
I've spent years coaching families using the DISC personality assessments, and the more and more I've walked families through them, the more I've seen the way these can truly crack the code of empathy for others.
Have you ever struggled to connect with someone who just seems to operate on a completely different wavelength than you? Maybe you can't quite figure out why they're reacting the way they are, or why they're so resistant to your ideas. If you've experienced this before, you're not alone. Yet time and time again I've used DISC as a tool to help others bridge those gaps in communication and really understand where someone else is coming from.
Are you willing to step into the shoes of another and truly try and experience it from their perspective?
*Interesting note - I played with using AI through Canva Magic Write to get some content and a title for this blog post - Nathan and I talk a little about that at the beginning of this podcast.
Isn't DISC just another label?
Now, I know what you might be thinking - "Personality tests are just a bunch of hooey, right?" But hear me out. The DISC assessment is different from other personality tests in that it doesn't try to put you in a box or label you as one specific type of person. Instead, it looks at four different aspects of your personality - being driven, inspiring, supportive and curious - and helps you understand how those aspects interact with each other.
It's not simply saying you are one thing. You are capable of being whatever you want to be. Some elements just may come easier for you than others, and the more you can stick in your sweet spot, the more recharged you'll be. And, the more tools you have to understand others, the better.
The Language of Empathy
So, how does this relate to empathy? I first heard this comparison of DISC being a language of empathy from my friend Jen McDonough. She said, "In my own speaking business using DISC has been such a valuable tool in understanding the best way to market to my ideal audience, how to present proposals to clients, and how to engage audience members based on their strengths and challenges."
When you take the DISC assessment and understand your own personality style, you start to understand how you naturally communicate and interact with others. But more importantly, you start to understand how other people communicate and interact based on their own personality styles. This gives you a "language of empathy" - a way to understand someone else's perspective and tailor your communication style to better connect with them.
For example, let's say you're a "D" style - dominant and direct. You might find yourself frustrated when you're working with someone who's more of an "S" style - steady and supportive - because they might seem too passive or hesitant to make decisions. But if you understand that their personality style is just naturally more cautious and relationship-focused, you can adjust your communication style to be more patient and understanding. This can help you build a better relationship with that person and ultimately work more effectively together.
A Quick Lesson On DISC
My daughter Ellie has been having fun playing with graphics, and the other day she created these slides for each of the personality styles that can really help to give you a quick overview -
D - Driven, Dominant, Decisive
People that live in a predominately D style often can get a bad reputation for being overbearing, insensitive, bossy, and more. And yes, when they are triggered and frustrated, it is very much about the bottom-line task at hand, regardless of the feelings of the people around them.
While there are many things that can evoke an air of strength with a D-style, it's important for them to keep in mind how they may present to others. Sometimes in order to really achieve the bottom line they need to learn to pull back, add in some patience, let go of all the reigns, and let others shine in their own strengths.
D's want to be acknowledged for their accomplishments and move at a fast pace. If you're communicating to a D, keep things short and sweet, and to the point. I used the quote "begin with the end in mind" whenever I'm talking with Ds, and you'll often hear the phrase, "The bottom line is..."
I - Inspiring, Influential, Persuasive
For someone who thrives on attention and entertainment, I-styles love to connect with others and shoot the breeze - which is a great fit since their earth element is air! Just like air can be a bit unpredictable and all over the place, I's love to try new things and may be guilty of shiny object syndrome.
Understanding their need for affirmation can help you communicate what you need while addressing what is on you vs. them, like letting them know you appreciate the conversation, yet need to go because of another commitment. This affirms them and their interaction with you while allowing you to gracefully exit a conversation that may have gone on a bit too long (one bunny trail after another).
S - Steady, Supportive, Loyal
The majority of the population aligns with the S style - supportive, steady, and loyal. And, not eager to make waves; they love to simply flow like water. Yet, like water, they are strong and mighty and a force to be reckoned with. The scary thing is that they'll let things slide until it builds up...and then the dam breaks. This can be very risky for relationships, especially when an S by nature is non-confrontational. The last thing they want is for things to escalate, which is exactly what happens when things aren't clearly communicated on a small scale.
For an S, communicate the small things. Don't just let them build up so it's a bigger mountain than you'd ever want to handle. When someone seems to be checking out or saying "I don't care," that's a clear indicator they are overwhelmed and feeling insecurity somewhere. A great first step is to get on the same page of support, that you're in this together.
C - Compliant, Conscientious, and Curious
People that love the details and systems, and who love to ask "why" are most likely a C style. And no, these aren't just accountants and bookkeepers. They can be highly creative and see the little details that really bring things to life.
When you're interacting with a C, it's always good to check in first to ensure it's a good time - they may often be deep into a project or task that requires their full concentration to get all the details right. And, if you are a C style and you find yourself insanely overwhelmed by those little details, take a break to come back again with fresh eyes. Just like in the tech world where we say when all else fails, reboot, do that to yourself and take a break and walk away when it gets to be too much, just for a fresh perspective and recharge with some literal space between you and the issue.
Do you see a perspective beyond your own?
We all have fears that hold us back and trigger our worst behaviors. Maybe we fear losing control, rejection, loss of security, or criticism. Heck, many of us have some fears with all of these.
When our fears are triggered, we can become reactive. Simply digging deeper into the "why" behind the reaction can help us approach someone with more grace and empathy.
So, if you're looking to improve your communication skills and really connect with others, consider taking the DISC assessment and learning more about the "language of empathy." It might just give you the tools you need to bridge those gaps and build stronger relationships.