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Recognizing & Relating to 4 Behavioral Styles

March 10, 2015

SDS presentation-creationTo effectively connect with others it’s helpful to recognize a person’s behavioral style, and then relate to him or her accordingly.  DISC has become one of the most widely used style assessment, profile and training tools in America.  DISC is an acronym that stands for Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious styles (Personality Insights, 2003).

This article provides a practical overview of how to recognize and relate to each of these types.   An online DISC assessment, for use in determining your style, or that of followers or employees is available from

Understanding Four Behavioral Styles

Each of the four DISC styles – Dominant, Inspiring, Supportive and Cautious – has its own unique characteristics.  And, while everyone has all of the styles in their makeup, each person possesses these styles in varying degrees.  Much of the terminology in this article is derived from the Discovery Reports from Atlanta based Personality Insights.  For the balance of this article each these types will also be referred to by the beginning style letter of “D”, “I”, “S” or “C.”

DISC measures four styles of human behavior through two contrasting concepts.  The first concept is Outgoing vs. Reserved behavior and the second concept is Task vs. People orientation.

This simple diagram illustrates the four personality styles.


D or Dominant Types = Outgoing & Task Oriented I or Inspiring Types =Outgoing & People Oriented
C or Cautious Types = Reserved & Task Oriented S or Supportive Types = Reserved & People Oriented

Each of the four DISC styles has its own priority and way of communicating. For example:

  • “D” types are focused on the goal and communicate in a direct, to-the-point manner.
  • “I” types are focused on people and are engaging and interactive.
  • “S” types are concerned with relationships and are warm and considerate.
  • “C” types are focused on tasks and communicate in a logical, factual manner.

Although each individual has some of each style in his or her makeup, each person utilizes these styles in varying degrees.  Practically everyone has a distinctive primary style followed by a secondary style.  One’s secondary style can greatly influence or color their primary style, which is discussed later in the article.

Recognizing Each of the Four Styles

To further illustrate the qualities and characteristics of these styles:

  • D types are described as Direct, Demanding, Decisive, Determined and Doer.
  • I types are Inspiring, Influencing, Impressionable, Impressive and Interested in People.
  • S types are Stable, Steady, Sweet, Status Quo and Shy.
  • C types are Calculating, Competent, Conscientious, Contemplative and Careful (Personality Insights).

Relating to Each of the Four Styles

Learning the behavioral language of others is both beneficial and useful – and requires some effort on the learner’s part.  Here are some tips for communicating with each of the four styles.

  •  When communicating with Dominant types you must emphasize goals and solutions, talk results first and details later and be efficient with your time.  Be direct, get to the point and stay focused on the bottom line.
  •  When communicating with Inspiring types emphasize recognition and admiration, talk about their successes and listen when they go off task.  Keep the conversation upbeat, engaging and, if possible, fun.
  •  When communicating with Supportive styles emphasize teamwork, talk about value and service and remain warm and calming.  Be considerate or candid, and appreciative.
  • When communicating with Cautious styles emphasize quality, excellence and accuracy, talk about both major concepts and specific issues and remain logical and agreeable.   Be factual and less emotional (Personality Insights).

Reading Your Assessment

The DISC online assessment provides a report with a description of your style, along with a graph to further illustrate to what degree you possesses each style.

The six page mini-report provides a detailed description of an individual’s style, words that best describe the person and an analysis of strengths and recommendations for being one’s best. An indication of the individual’s complimentary team members is included.

Graphs I Environmental Style and II Basic Style

The DISC report includes two graphs.  Graph I, Environmental Style, reflects your behavior in your current environment – most likely the workplace.  The graph is a reflection of how you feel you should operate in your current situation.  Graph II, Basic Style, shows your natural style, which is operating at some level on a consistent basis, day in and day out.  Comparing the two graphs can show one how behavior required for your work environment may harmonize or conflict with your natural style.

Comparing Graphs I and II

A sizable difference between the two graphs may indicate you are in a work environment where you function differently from your natural or basic style.  For one person this may indicate they are working “against the grain,” or perhaps are not in an environment that best fits his or her style.  Another person may recognize the contrast but find the environment provides a desired opportunity for challenge, growth or increased earnings.  When Graphs I and II are similar it suggests your work environment is likely a good fit for your behavioral style preferences.

Styles Above and Below the Graph Midline

Most people show one or two styles above the midline and two or three below.  Some people have three styles above the midline and one below.  A few people have an evenly distributed graph along the midline.  Those styles above the midline tend to come more easily for the individual.  Those below the midline require more effort.  One may refer these tendencies as natural vs. learned behaviors.  No two people are exactly alike. Your blend of styles makes you a very unique individual.

Natural vs. Learned Behaviors

Just because a style is graphed below the midline doesn’t mean one can’t become skilled at activities related to that behavior.  It just means that, initially, more effort is required for those types of activities.  Most adults have learned, though effort and practice, how to become more skilled at things that were once difficult.

Primary and Secondary Styles

One’s secondary style, as indicated on the Basic Style graph, infuses or colors their primary style.  For example, a person with a D/I or Dominant/Inspiring style will display their D characteristics with some of the warmth of the I type.  In contrast, a person with a D/C or Dominant/Cautious style will display dominance in a colder, more analytical manner.  A person with an S/C or Supportive/Cautious style will demonstrate S characteristics in a more logical, factual manner than will one with an S/I or Supportive/Interactive style who displays their S in a warmer, people oriented, engaging manner.

Based on these examples, you can get an idea of how your secondary style can infuse your primary style.  If one has three styles above the midline the third style will also impact the first two.  The C/D/I style leader, for example,  may be a cautious and analytical “C” type who is driven by their “D” secondary style but has a quirky sense of humor emanating from the “I” style.

Resources & Recommended Reading

  •  Burn, B. (2012). Personal Communication. San Diego, CA:
  • Personality Insights (2003). Adult profile assessment. Atlanta, GA: Personality Insights, Inc.


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Drinon Leadership Express


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