Columnists, Thom Finn, V5I1

On Dealing with People

Winter is a good time for builders to gather their dealers and manufacturers around to improve their communication. Recently I was invited to speak to one such group, and I decided to talk about DiSC.  

In my years of working with people, I now believe sales and management are first cousins of each other. Both require a strong understanding of how to read and best communicate with, and manage, people.  

For a long time, I have been steadfast in the belief that DiSC is the most effective tool to learn to gain valuable insight into people, whether they be customers or employees. It is not an intelligence test, nor is it an actual personality assessment.  

In fact, there is no DiSC that is better or worse than the others.  All DiSC styles have both strengths, and weaknesses. I have seen all the different DiSC behavioral styles in successful salespeople, effective managers and profitable business owners.  

Created nearly 100 years ago, the DiSC assessment looks only at a person’s behavior (not personality) and immediately pigeonholes him or her into one of four categories. Some people will not fit neatly into one of these four boxes, but you can’t beat DiSC for speed and accuracy.  It is a very fast and reliable way to practice the Platinum Rule: To do unto others as they would have done unto them and avoid doing unto others as you would not have done unto you.  

The DiSC shortcut takes its name from the four basic behavioral styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. I believe in this tool so much that every five years, I gather with a group of other experts to discuss what we all have learned at the University of Texas.  

It was in one of these meetings years ago that I finally heard a description that fit better than the rest. Each one of us has four knobs, like four volume control dials that indicate how much or how little D, I, S, or C we have.  

Some people, like myself, have the D turned up very high with no trace of an I or S. Many of my clients have their S turned up very high and have a much fainter reading on the D scale.  

I believe we were all made to go up and down, and understanding DiSC is not about trying to change someone. Rather, I taught these guys at the dealer meeting that they should 1) learn how to recognize the four styles, and 2) learn the specific approach for better harmony with each person. Here are clues to identify the four different types.


The D is the most direct. Ds are also open and get right to the point. They are assertive, demanding, and without any coaching or feedback, can be jerks. 

Their questions usually start with “what.”  The D uses the fastest pace of the four types.  Ds are usually competitive, and their natural conflict response is to fight back.  

Most recent estimates from experts put the percent of the U.S. population of high Ds at 17%, so Ds make up the second smallest minority.  


The high I is sometimes described as the people person. They are also open, but won’t be as direct as the D.  

I’s are more likely to ask “who” at the start of a question. I styles are usually talkative, focus on the broader horizon, and are quick to talk about their emotions. I styles are outgoing, social, and full of energy.  

However, when under pressure, our informal studies down at the last University of Texas gathering showed that the majority of adults in the U.S. population have I as their leading style.  They have a tendency to focus more on people and may overlook details and tasks.  

The high Is need to interact and have a stronger need to be liked than the other three. They are the quickest to get in touch with and acknowledge their emotions, and gravitate towards activities that involve others.  

The conflict response for the high I is to take flight rather than stick around and fight. If you are an uber-D, like me, you will silently struggle to control the urge to throttle the Is. 

Experts say that 38 percent of the U.S. population falls into this category.


The high S is more indirect than direct and is more closed or reserved than open. The S, standing for steadiness, serves as a reminder that they are the slowest pace of the four.  

If the D were the hare, then the S would be the tortoise. They’re friendly and polite, but not quite as outgoing as the I. The high S has the strongest need to serve and places the highest importance on loyalty.  

I recently had a high S client back out after one session because I too directly advised him to start taking deposits. His legitimate concern was this policy would rock the boat.  

The high Ss probably have more long-term friends than any of the other types because they place the greatest value on long-term relationships. Like the turtle, when the high S businessman faces conflict, he or she will neither fight nor take flight, but rather close down and retreat inward.  

In America, 32 percent of the population has this leading style.


We can remember the C by the word correctness. They are the most analytical and reserved. Of the four DiSC styles, Cs are usually very detail oriented.  

Cs prefer focusing on facts, information, and are great at problem solving. They are very comfortable working alone. Cs are very cautious and hold themselves to high standards. They focus on analyzing tasks and quality.  

The outstanding characteristics of a high C are the need for procedures, the importance of following rules, and insisting on proof or evidence. If you have ever been labeled a perfectionist, you probably will score as a high C.  

The C will usually ask “how” and is characterized by having the directness of the D, but also the reserve of the S. Many high Cs have the reputation for being a numbers person, or thinking more with their head than with their heart.  

When under stress, hi Cs become pessimistic and picky, or overly critical. Rather than staying to fight or taking flight or clamming up, the high C avoids conflicts at any cost. This is the smallest group of the U.S. population with only 13 percent.


Whether it be in managing the team or in sales strategy, both situations are about persuading, in a non-manipulative way, someone else to come around to your way of thinking. If you understand how to recognize each part of the DiSC, you can then adopt the most successful approach.  

For example, the high C will want you to get right to the point and include statistical backup. The high C does not place importance upon, nor does he want to hear, reasoning based upon emotion.  

The high S is the last one you want to try a hard close, or a pressure technique, on. These soakers do better when they are given plenty of time and space, at least overnight, to think decisions through and get a good night sleep. More than the other three types, the high S places the most importance on harmony with his fellow man. 

The high I is the most impetuous and can be led to a decision based on other influencers doing it. Another good technique for dealing with the high Is is to let them do nearly 80 percent of the talking, as it is critical to them that you know how they feel.  

I am probably prejudiced, but the high Ds are my favorite to manage and sell to. Closing techniques and sales that backfire on other types work beautifully with the D. The technique of a simple asking for the sale, or any variation where you asked this larger ego what he wants, will work well.

As a manager, studying DiSC can bring better results to productivity and your net income. The winning teams I’ve seen and helped all practice the Platinum Rule. 

The very best leaders are able to quickly adapt their own behavioral style and pick up the characteristics of the individual who they’re working with. There is no ideal DiSC. Cs are no better than Is.  

Once you have learned the four different behavioral styles, I encourage you to be fluent and strong in all four languages. Study and master them all. I believe the foundation, or starting point to get along with anyone, whether it be sales prospect or employee, or family member is to understand DiSC and have plenty of lubricant, so you can easily turn up and turn down the four dials as required.  

One of the ultimate complements when it comes to getting along with people is when a trained expert cannot determine your own DiSC style because you can exhibit all four of the traits in different situations.

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