Understanding How Others Communicate

In a well-balanced team, the members will naturally adopt the various roles and responsibilities that are a good fit for their wiring.

Surely you've noticed how some people you run into speak and think just like you. Your backgrounds may be different but the way you tell stories, the way you feel about things, the way you approach problems, your like or dislike of crowds, etc. are almost identical.

You may have also noticed that certain professions tend to be populated by individuals who look, act, and talk the same. What image comes to mind when I say: Bookkeeper, salesman, business owner, motivational speaker, engineer?

Here's what's going on. Since biblical times, four distinct personalities have been apparent to anyone paying close attention. Knowing the tendencies of these four distinct personalities will help you get people to do what you want them to do, it will help you reduce interpersonal conflict, it will help you understand what other's are trying to tell you when their words don't make sense.

The four primary personalities go by several different names. I'm going to use the ones used by the DISC profiling system. The personality names are:

  • Dominance
  • Influence
  • Steadiness
  • Compliance

Each of us has some level of all four, the issue is which trait is the strongest in us. That's the one that will account for 50% to 70% of our observable behavior. The lowest trait we have will account for 10% to 20% of our observable behavior. Let me give you a brief introduction to each.

Dominance (D)
People who are high D cherish their independence. They don't like being told what to do although they are very comfortable when given options and will not hesitate to make a decision.

High D's like facts. Always have your facts straight when talking to a high D. The one thing that gives high D's away is their tendency to be very direct. They tell it like they see it. High D's excel at getting things done. They stay focused on the goal and will not hesitate to push others to move in that direction.

You will often find high D's in leadership positions, because quite frankly, they have a thirst to lead. No other trait has that same drive. Not that the other traits can't lead or won't take the lead, they are just more apt to evaluate the situation before stepping up whereas the high D will simply take the bull by the horns. High D's like to win. They can be very competitive and very opinionated.

The vast majority of small business owners are high D's. In my experience, I've noticed that the construction industry is LOADED with high D's. Probably because the result of the work effort is so visible and tangible.

Influence (I)
People who are high I are more commonly known as Extroverts. They love interacting with others, they pay close attention to how they and others present themselves, and they need to feel liked.

The typical salesman is high I. Motivational speakers are almost perfect examples of high I's. High I's draw energy from crowds. They enjoy entertaining. They take over a room. They love motivating people to do things. They are people people.

High I's also tend to be very emotional and sometimes must be handled with kid gloves. They have a tendency to have hundreds of balls in the air. They need to be in situations where they can interact with other people.

Steadiness (S)
People who are high S cherish stability. They hate change and they hate conflict. They are the world's peacemakers. High S's are extremely risk averse. They greatly value job security. They will rarely leave a company no matter how ugly things get. That's not necessarily a habit that works well for them.

High S's are comfortable with, and even enjoy, repetitive tasks. They tend to be very comfortable following policy and get very irritated when others don't.

Bookkeepers usually profile out as high S's because bookkeeping is nothing more than following a set of rules exactly and repeatedly. Perfect for the high S.

High S's love harmony and dislike conflict so much so that they struggle giving negative feedback. I one time watched a high I start shaking while trying to tell her boss something that she thought would hurt the boss' feelings (being a high D himself, the criticism just bounced off).

Keep in mind, that a high I throw will herself under the bus to make conflict go away. In other words, just because she compromised doesn't mean it was the right thing to do.

Compliance (C)
Now let me say right here and now that compliance is a very misleading name. High C's are only compliant when everything is logically laid out. I happen to be a high C and the far better name would be ANALYTICAL.

High C's are controlled by logical and they analyze EVERYTHING. High C's and high I's often conflict as the high I is driven by and reactive to emotion whereas the high C is like the black hole of emotion.

It's not that they don't have emotions, it's just that they look at stuff logically and while doing that they don't send off much emotional response. This drives high I's nuts.

If you know how, the high C is the easiest person to get to change his mind. All you really have to do is present some new information he overlooked when reaching his decision and he will start to re-evaluate the decision. Of course, the flip side also holds. No new information means no change of mind.

High C's can be very stubborn. They like to question policy and argue both sides of a decision. They can actually put forth a solid argument even though they personally disagree with it.

No Trait Is Better Than Another
Each trait has a good side and a bad side. Basically, it comes down to how the individual uses the skills she has been blessed with. It also depends on the situation in which the person finds herself in.

The one thing you can predict is that if a group gets too heavily saturated with any one trait, it will not function anywhere near as well as it would if each trait was equally represented.

In a well-balanced team, the members will naturally adopt the various roles and responsibilities that are a good fit for their wiring.

Wrapping It Up
If you'd like to receive a free copy of the reference manual we used to train with, send me an e-mail. I encourage you to contact Jerry Hill if you'd like to run a profile. I think he charges $15 a survey.

His website is www.heartwisecommunication.com. His phone number is listed on the home page if you wish to call him.

They are many books on the market about these traits, the best probably being "Discover Your Strengths" written by the authors of First Break All The Rules.

Another profile I strongly recommend taking is the Kolbe A Index which can be found at www.kolbe.com. I will address the Kolbe profile in an upcoming article.

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.