Leaders: What the Heck is DISC #3 (Blending Styles)

Will It Blend?

Understanding your own primary personality and behavioral styles is one thing. But being able to understand how they blend within you and how yours blend with others is a whole different ball game.

To understand the basic elements of DISC: Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance, make sure you have a grasp on these two previous posts: What the Heck is DISK? | Understanding Emotions

Understanding people, teams, and how they work together can help with productivity and bottom-line results for organizations.

Will it Blend?

Now that we understand the basic personality styles, it is time to learn how they blend within each and every personality.

Firstly, we must reiterate that every person’s personality has all four of the behavioural elements within it to one degree or another. Each element of the personality will play off another depending on its intensity and the specific situation at hand.

In many cases, we find that behaviour is controlled by one major element.

Highs and Lows

That is why we often find DISC users using terminology such as “High D, High I, High S, or High C.” Although one of those elements is often dominant, it is seldom allowed to act on its own.

For example, if a person has a “High D” style he might also have a “Low I” style at the same time, this  will make his or her behaviour significantly different than someone who is a “High D” and “High I.”

In the example given above, both individuals will be driven to incisive, potentially argumentative, direct and aggressive behaviour.

However, a “High D” individual whose personality is tempered by a “Low I”, will tend to be pessimistic, untrusting, and independent.

While the person with the “High D” and “High I” will tend to be trusting, optimistic, and seek to resolve problems with the help of other people.

The “Lower I” person will act with little or no sense of humour.

While the “Higher I” person will use humour to assist in solving the problem.

The “Lower I” person will tend to try to force his or her agenda through.

While the “Higher I” person will attempt to persuade others to his or her agenda.

As you can see, although the individuals mentioned in the example are both “High D’s” their reaction to situations and their resulting behaviour will be quite different.

More Highs and Lows

Now let’s look at the example of a “High I” whose behaviour is tempered by a “Low S” versus a “High I” person whose behaviour is influenced by a “High S.” In this case, both individuals will be friendly, sociable, and good at mixing with other people.

However, the “Lower S” person whose pace is much faster will actively seek out new relationships and communication with others while the “Higher S” person will be slower to meet new people and will be open and amiable primarily with established friends and family members.

When the “S style” becomes a factor, either as a primary or secondary style influencer, individuals will approach situations at a different pace. Because of that subtle difference, casual observers might notice that one “High I” person is much more friendly and gregarious than another. The “Higher S” tends to reduce the naturally vivacious enthusiasm of the “High I” while the “Lower S” actually intensifies it.

Although “High I’s” tend to be outgoing and amiable, the other elements of their personalities will determine how it manifests itself.

More to Compare

Now let’s compare a “High S” person whose style is tempered by a “Low C” to a “High S” whose style is influence by a “High C”. It is important to note that at a “High S” tends to slow down the pace of an individual causing him or her to be very methodical, patient and often stubborn. In both cases the individuals will tend to be persistent and persevering in the accomplishment of goals.

The person whose “High S” is tempered by a “Low C” will tend to display some independence, while the person who is influenced by the “Higher C” will show greater regard for the expectations of others.

The person with the “Lower C” will persistently hang on to unpopular views and be resistant to change in approach to problems or people, while the person with the “Higher C” will be determined to remain “on course” but not at the expense of quality or at the risk of disappointing others.

Even though “High S” people are generally methodical and thoughtful, they will display a variety of reactions to situations depending on the intensity of an influencing “C” factor.

Rounding It Out

Now, let’s look at a how a “High C” can be influenced by a “Higher D” and a “Lower D”. Both will tend to be adaptable, dependable and soft spoken. The High “C” is naturally a stickler for rules and likes to put things into a “box”. They are critical thinkers and normally well-disciplined.

In the case of “High C’s” that are influenced by a “Lower D”, they will use humour to avoid confrontation, while “High C’s” that are tempered by a “Higher D” will tend to become confrontational when pushed.

The “High C” that is influenced by the “Lower D” will behave according to established, respected procedures and systems while the “High C” that is tempered by the “Higher D” will tend to push quite hard to find correct, acceptable answers even if it means changing or creating procedures or systems.

Even though “High C’s” are generally cautious and exacting, they will react differently to challenges depending on the intensity of a high or low, “D” factor.

Possibilities Abound

There are a myriad of possible combinations of the Dominance, Influencing, Steadiness, and Compliance styles of DISC.

In fact there are far too many to outline here. However, we hope that these few examples provide enough information to show the complexity and value of the tool.

Stay Tuned

In future issues of “UNDERSTANDING DISC” we will discuss how the DISC styles work in human relationships and how to best communicate with the various styles.

This article is based on the work of Dr. William Moulton Marston, creator of the DISC model.


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Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
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Disclosure of Material Connection: This is an L2L Partner Post. The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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5 responses to “Leaders: What the Heck is DISC #3 (Blending Styles)

  1. Marston did not create the 4 styles – this dates back to Hippocrates – 4 centuries BC – as a medical doctor, he thought it had to do with differences in blood lines – so our understanding has definitely improved over time!!!


    • Thanks Kevin
      Hippocrates believed in four states commonly known as the four temperments.Those states were known as Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. They bare faint resemblance to DISC but it is interesting that mankind has wanted to boil personality down to 4 states for a very long time. Other studies over the years have used alternate titles but DISC seems to be the one that we best identify with in this century.For those who like to study these things, more information can be found here: http://wilderdom.com/personality/L6-1PersonalityTypes.html


  2. Wayne, I very much enjoyed your post and I have worked with DISC, MBPI, and many others. I think in a professional development setting they can be very helpful in creating self-awareness and insight around the predispositions within our unique personalities. I also think they lend themselves (too easily) to reductionism and send us on the road to flatland. In my experience, people, in a holistic sense, do not fit very well into High Ds, NTs, FFM (Big5), the Likert Scale, RISB, and other such personality profiles. Most personality types transcend and include these insights into their integral self. When used as designed I am fine. But I see them being used in hiring, promotions, succession planning and even in the informal system to determine the “ins and outs.” Unfortunately, when the shadow side goes public, many companies (HR, egoistic leaders, etc.) go ego goofy about the facade of power they will have when they can label and interpret the essence of a person using the language of one of these instruments. I guess that over the years I have learned 2 things in this area. One is that the participant is right and not the test. The second is you model your ethics in your design. Like any good tool in the hands of someone not ready to use it properly, its 220 or 221 whatever it takes. Thanks for the learnings and I look forward to your future posts.


    • Thanks Doug
      I agree with much of what you have said. DISC has made its way well beyond the scholarly studies of Marston into the realm of a common, online business tool. Like you, my concern is that without a good deal of study and practical utilization, it offers great potential for error and even harm. Since the product is now almost as common as the laptop computers that produce the DISC surveys, my aim is to offer some insight into the workings of it. I hope also to make it clear that interpretation of the tool should not be attempted by anyone who has not spent a good deal of time studying its complexities. I also fear, as you say, “ego-goofy” users of the product who understand neither the tool nor the participant.
      All the Best


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