Global Resilience Solutions > Category:DISC Personality System

Understanding Personalities for Everyday Resilience

One of the first things to notice about people’s interpretations of other people’s behaviour is that they are often if not usually wrong.  We attempt to make judgments based on the wiring of our own personalities, the ideas and coping mechanisms we learned in childhood, our own traumatic programming, and the result often has no bearing on what is actually going on in the other person’s mind.  People are wired differently, looking for different things in life, responding to different past experiences, with different ideas about what is important in everyday life and different processes for work.  By understanding the part that each of these factors plays, we can begin to understand the diversity and the constraints of the people we deal with every day.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a talk by Dr. Robert Rohm, probably the foremost exponent of the DISC personality assessment today.  I wasn’t expecting anything special since I was already extensively familiar with DISC, but was I in for a surprise!  This was one of the most dynamic and engaging presentations I’ve ever seen…

“If you would describe yourself as an outgoing person,” said Dr. Rohm, “I’d like you to go and stand at that end of the room.  But if you’d describe yourself as a more reserved person, then please stand at the opposite end.  Just go with whatever your inclination is now – this isn’t cast in stone.”

So we all headed to our respective ends of the room, as he continued… “Now, within each of your groups, some of you will be more ‘task oriented’ while others are more naturally ‘people oriented’.  If you believe you’re more people oriented, please stand on the window side of the room and if you’re more task oriented, I’d like you to stand over on the door side of the room.  Do all this while staying at your respective ends of the room.”


So there we were, neatly divided into four groups:

  • Outgoing and task oriented
  • Outgoing and people oriented
  • Reserved and people oriented
  • Reserved and task oriented

Dr. Rohm described each of the above groups in order, explaining, “We call these groups respectively D, I, S and C.  You D types are dominant; you like to be in control and take charge, telling others what to do.  You want to run the show.

“You I types are inspiring, the life of the party.  You want to be in the limelight and you think you ARE the show.

“You S types are supportive and sensitive.  You’re always there for others, you’re great team players and your only concern is that the show should go well for everyone.

“You C types are cautious and careful.  You do things thoroughly and methodically, always pursuing excellence.  You’ll plan the show so nothing goes wrong.”

Looking around the room and knowing a lot of the other attendees personally, I could see he had pretty well hit the nail on the head.  The irony was that since the group was composed heavily of entrepreneurs, the D and I types were over-represented in terms of the general population.


The System


The DISC Personality Assessment is one of the most useful tools for understanding human behaviour.  Unlike some other personality profiles, it proceeds from simple and obvious distinctions that have been used to evaluate personality since the time of the ancient Greeks.  DISC plots personality along four quadrants.  The horizontal line distinguishes outgoing tendencies from reserved tendencies- or extroversion from introversion.  The vertical line distinguishes task-orientation from people-orientation.  The resulting four quadrants are labelled D, I, S and C, and describe the range of human personality based on these variables.

D: D’s are outgoing but task-oriented, dominant, take-charge personalities.

I: I’s are outgoing and people-oriented, and like to take centre stage.

S: S’s are reserved and people-oriented, steady, supportive and easygoing.

C: C’s are reserved and task-oriented, critical thinkers, competent, careful and contemplative.

Note that these types are not exclusive- most people are a mix of all four in varying combinations and to various degrees.  DISC testing ranks the letters according to their influence on your personality.

By confining itself to these two variables, introversion-extroversion and people-task orientation, plotting them along a continuum and allowing for mixing and matching of these traits, DISC recognises the variability of these qualities in human personality while still yielding useful information about any given personality.  Because these traits are certainly not the only ones relevant to personality, DISC avoids the reductionist and restrictive nature of some other systems.


The Punch Line

“You D types,” he went on, “…the happiest day of your parents’ life was the day you left home and stopped telling them how to raise you.  As for you I- types, the saddest day in your parents’ life was the day you left home, because all the fun left with you.  You S types never did leave home because you’re so happy where you are.  And you C types have bought your parents’ home and are now leasing it back to them!”

“Now understand that these types are complimentary and no one type is ‘better’ than another.  It’s just how you’re wired.  But there’s more to it: all of us contain all four types within us.  It’s just that one or two of the types will dominate while the others have much less influence on your behavior.  So if you couldn’t be in the quadrant you’re standing in now, point to the one that you feel would describe next best how you’re wired.”

We all pointed.  I’m a high C / high S blend, so I pointed to the S quadrant folks standing at the back of the room on the window side.

“Notice that almost all of you pointed to your left or right and that only a couple of you pointed directly across the room.  Typically the quadrant across the room is the lowest one on your chart and the one you understand the least.

“Also, there’s normally a third quadrant that you ‘live in’ some of the time.  It may not describe your deepest wiring but you’re capable of stretching yourself to go there when needed.  What is that quadrant for you?”

I pointed to the D quadrant.  I don’t usually feel a huge compulsion to be in charge, but if I’m on a team with a common task to accomplish and I see that the leadership is absent or ineffective, I will automatically take over and start directing things.

For more of Dr. Rohm, check out the following video.



The DISC system is a fantastic resilience tool for understanding yourself and others.  As you use the system, you can begin to recognise the personalities around you in everyday life.  You can begin to understand the motivations and perspectives of the different personality types around you and tailor your responses accordingly.  In the business world, it’s a very effective tool for building highly productive teams or for diagnosing and eliminating the tensions and conflicts within a team.  This week, see if you can recognise these personality types in your coworkers, friends and family.


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger