Picture this; you’re sitting in a restaurant with five of your friends. Two of them are Sam and Alex. When Alex’s order comes, it’s wrong. Alex mentions this to Sam but decides to eat the meal anyways, rather than send it back. Sam, however, wants to help. Sam tells the waiter about the mistake and ensures it gets corrected. When Alex asks Sam why he did it, Sam says “I can’t help it, I’m such an ENFJ.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard dozens of conversations and comments like this throughout the years. Maybe you have too, or maybe you have no idea what an “ENFJ” is. (Honestly, I had to google it before writing this article.) What was Sam referring to? He was discussing the famed Myers-Briggs type indicator test. This is by far the most well-known personality test of our day. Based on Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types, it aims to break down tendencies in personality and perception. The goal is to better understand how your personality lends itself to different careers, patterns of behavior, and so on. It is one of the many attempts humans have made to better understand ourselves; both how we behave and how we communicate.

An Underpinning of Society

This understanding is absolutely worth seeking. Communication, after all, is an underpinning of our society. Almost everything we do, from forming friendships to deciding who leads the country, can be traced back to communication. Why not, then, focus on communication styles, rather than personality tests, when seeking to understand behavior? Of course, behavior is a multi-faceted and extremely in-depth topic that can’t always be dissected cleanly. So, before we dive into the discussion of communication, it’s important that I give a couple of disclaimers.

First, I am not saying that personality tests (both the Myers-Briggs and others) don’t have a place in discussions on behavior. They are certainly interesting to investigate, and I would encourage you to do so for yourself. Second, I am not a psychologist. I have, however, spent years seeking to understand communication, both as an ASL interpreter and as a student of neurolinguistics. With those disclaimers having been proclaimed, let’s look into one of the main communication tools I enjoy.


My personal favorite communication model is DiSC. I enjoy this model because it identifies communication styles and preferences. I feel that when I look at communication rather than personality, I am able to draw conclusions that are less emotional or judgmental. By taking biases out of the equation, it helps me make clearer connections and communicate with people more effectively. Let’s look at the basics of this model and some ways I’ve made application of it.

Understanding Communication Styles

The DISC model describes four basic styles of communication: Dominance, Influence, Conscientiousness, and Steadiness. Let’s look at an overview of these categories with definitions from https://www.discprofile.com/:

    • D = Dominance: A person primarily in this DISC quadrant places emphasis on accomplishing results and “seeing the big picture.” They are confident, sometimes blunt, outspoken, and demanding.
    • I= influence: A person in this DISC quadrant places emphasis on influencing or persuading others. They tend to be enthusiastic, optimistic, open, trusting, and energetic.
    • S = Steadiness: A person in this DISC quadrant places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, loyalty, and dependability. They tend to have calm, deliberate dispositions, and don’t like to be rushed.
    • C = Conscientiousness: A person in this DISC quadrant places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise and competency. They enjoy their independence, demand the details, and often fear being wrong.

Communication Types Applied

These definitions are great, but how do we apply it in our day-to-day life? How do these styles really affect our mental processes? Well, I am a conscientiousness type. This means that when I have a job assigned to me, my mind goes straight to what I need to get done in order to accomplish the task. I immediately start to analyze the job and make a mental (or physical) list of what I need to do to complete it. Someone who is a steadiness type may have a different initial reaction. Their mind might go to what they can do to lessen the load on others working on the project. Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t care about others on my team. It also doesn’t mean that a steadiness type doesn’t care about accomplishing the task. It just means that our priorities and first thoughts may be different.

This is how our communication profiles affect us daily. Each of us, depending on our type, have unique responses to how we process information. Let’s look at some examples of this, both in the workplace and in social situations.

In the Workplace

DISC profiling has proved immensely useful for me in workplace communication. My boss, Chris Hadnagy, is a D type. He is very direct and doesn’t generally focus on details. Ironically, my communication profile says this is the style I, a C, work the least well with in management. This is due to my need for details and to ensure that I have completed a task correctly.

I remember one occasion where I moderated a panel. After it was over, Chris told me that I did well, and gave an example of something he liked. Later, when we were in a group conversation with a colleague, Chris was discussing DISC with them. He said that normally he would have only given me feedback if I’d had something to improve upon. Normally, he wouldn’t focus on the small details or on reassurance. However, his knowing my communication profile enabled him to realize that I would need some feedback on the assignment. He was correct!

In Social Situations

I don’t know about you, but occasionally when I’m in a social setting that isn’t my norm, I will experience some level of social anxiety. This is especially true if it’s a large group of people that I don’t know very well. I’ve found that stepping back and trying to determine people’s preferred communication style helps me get out of my head. This works for two reasons. First, it takes the focus off me. It enables me to turn my attention elsewhere. Second, by attempting to speak to people in the way they prefer, it makes our interactions more meaningful.

Perhaps you’re on the opposite side of the communication spectrum from me. Maybe you’re an I or a D type; someone who is naturally more confident or enthusiastic. In this case, analyzing communication styles will still help you. For example, imagine you’re communicating with an S type. S types do not usually like being rushed and tend to be calm. Someone who is an I may be a little too energetic or enthusiastic for that person. While none of these traits are better or worse than the others, we can adjust to make people more comfortable. If the I type can determine that someone prefers S-style communications, they can perhaps speak a little more calmly. They can ask questions, seeking to show the support and sincerity S-style communicators value.

I would encourage you to investigate DISC a little more and try this out in the coming weeks! See if you can learn to determine people’s preferred communication styles. If you do, be sure to let me know your experiences!

What Makes Humans, Human

No matter our preference on how each of us prefers to assess communication and personalities, the effort is worth making. If you have looked into the DISC communication model yourself, please share your experiences! I would love to hear how you have benefited from deepening your understanding of communication styles. No matter the method used, let’s keep digging into what makes humans human, and learn from each other.

Written by Shelby Dacko