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The DISC test – A summary of the basics

A bit of history

Almost a hundred years ago, in 1928, Marston published his book “Emotions of Normal People.” He sought to explain the various patterns of behavior that healthy people followed when found in different environments. It is important to emphasize that, in previous years, other recognized psychologists such as Freud or Jung carried out similar studies, but in mentally unstable people or criminals, which might be the reason why he emphasized the adjective “normal” in the title of his book. 

Marston identified four behavior styles, which he named: dominance (D), influence (I), submission (S), and compliance (C). Hence the name DISC. Of course, this terminology has evolved, but overall, you could say that his ideas continue to be the cornerstone of DISC. His book was not widely accepted at its time, perhaps because Marston failed to develop a complementary tool so that a person could measure himself and determine his preferred style. It took almost thirty years before Walter Clarke created a self-assessment tool using vector analysis and based on the theories of the 1928 book.

In the 1970s, John Geier created what is known as the personality profile DiSC. It is important to emphasize that there is a difference between DISC (all uppercase) and DiSC (with a lowercase “i”). The first term used in this book is the psychological theory that began to develop Marston. The second term (now commercially called Everything DiSC®) is a series of validated evaluations and products based on DISC theory.

DISC-based tests or assessments are widespread today. What’s more, most of you likely already taken one during some recruitment process or perhaps during a workshop or on-the-job training. It is used so much because it is considered an easy and practical tool that explains human behavior. 

The styles and representation

After performing a DISC test, we will identify which of the four styles (D, I, S, or C) is our preferred and secondary. It is important to remark that the different styles are not dissociated elements. People are usually a mixture of two or even more styles.

Let’s be clear, no style is better than another, they all have strengths and weaknesses, but they complement each other. Many studies have demonstrated the advantages obtained by forming work teams with people of different styles. On the contrary, it is challenging for groups of people with the same style to generate synergies. For this reason, DISC has been used for several years as an improvement tool in work and family environments. 

Think about your family or circle of friends outside the work environment. Can you quickly notice the difference in styles among the different people? Most likely, you will see some patterns, similarities and differences. You can use DISC everywhere, not only at work!

The four DISC styles are represented by a circle divided into quadrants, each corresponding to one letter. Typically, when we see the results of a DISC test, we will be located in a specific area of ​​the graph, closer to one letter than another. This positioning represents how the person is a combination of styles but with an inclination towards one. 

The commercial piece

Of course, many DISC tests are available online or obtainable through consulting services. In most cases, you can take a free basic test, which will reveal your predominant style. If you pay any extra, you can obtain your secondary styles, analysis of the results, recommendations, and additional information. I have taken a few of the free ones; I cannot warranty that the output is 100% accurate, but at least it can give you an idea. I suggest investing a bit in yourself; the information you can get is fascinating.

Through DISC, we can identify the style of behavior that suits us best and accept our strengths and weaknesses. In the same way, by identifying other people’s styles, we can recognize similarities and differences, which allows us to adjust our language to communicate better and thus improve our relationships.

Many people ask me why I like the DISC so much when there are so many famous assessments like the MBTI or the more modern ones that are even quantitative available out there. The answer lies in its simplicity. The idea of memorizing up to sixteen different types of personalities seems highly exhausting to me. Certainly, other tests provide a lot of data that could be of great value; however, in the end, I still think that by identifying a person’s predominant personality style and the supplementary one, you can obtain enough information to adapt a proper conversational tone, design some strategies to influence people and establish good relationships. All that, only knowing four styles, with the necessary practice to read people quickly.

If you want to find out your DISC style, take a complete test and have a debrief meeting, I recommend booking a DISC session. As a certified practitioner, I can help you get the most out of this powerful tool. Of course, I will continue to develop the DISC principles in a few follow-up articles.

Alexander Martinez

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