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DISCerning Communication Avoids Conflict

Published:Sunday | December 13, 2015 | 12:00 AMTrevor E. S. Smith

Conflict is inevitable. Whenever there is an unmet need, conflict arises. Some conflicts are hidden or suppressed while others actually produce positive results.

But what about those frustrating, energy-sapping conflicts? Is there a way that we can avoid them?

There is a lot of work put into the issue of conflict resolution. What can be done to prevent conflicts versus resolving them?

A lot of conflicts arise from miscommunication.

The problem often starts with the sender. This can occur because what is sent does not fully and accurately represent what the sender has in mind.

Sender distortion is caused by many factors. One of the most prevalent ones is "engaging mouth before brain". Others include state of mind, haste and other distractions.

Sender distortion may also be impacted by the words used, expressions, the tone and the body language.

The message may not be received and interpreted as intended for similar reasons. The receiver's mood may cause them to read into the message things that were not intended. A hasty reading might result in them missing key points. Also, their knowledge and relationship with the sender might cloud how they receive the message. Add bias, assumptions, education, culture, past experience, etc, and you have a recipe for disaster.

These sender and receiver distortion factors are important in discussing the impact of communication in conflict resolution.

One major factor that is often missed in traditional conflict resolution training is the impact of behavioural styles in conflict management.

Our behavioural style is how we choose to navigate through life and relate to others. It is displayed in our actions - the way we are. Our preferred style is a variation or combination of four primary approaches or mind sets - Dominance, Inducement, Steadiness and Conscientiousness (D-I-S-C).

We use the D-I-S-C Framework to create a universal language of behaviours.

The messages that we send and how we send them are greatly influenced by our preferred behavioural language. If our preferred behavioural style is Dominance, our communication will tend to be more direct, seeking a decisive response that gives us what we want.

If the person receiving the message has Steadiness as their preferred behavioural style, they might feel uncomfortable with the tone of the message. They might deem it to be pushy. They might also spurn the request for a swift response because of their need to reflect on the issue and to consult with others.

The cycle then gets ratcheted up as the user of Dominance sends an even more pointed communication and is frustrated by the delay. This new communication is really disconcerting to the user of Steadiness. How anyone could be so rude and insensitive is beyond their imagination. There is now need to reconsider the entire relationship. If this is the type of behaviour that is going to be presented on an ongoing basis, then serious consideration must be given as to whether to continue the association.

This causes further delay and another round of escalation.

Behavioural style conflicts - hidden, suppressed and openly displayed - account for an unbelievably high percentage of interpersonal challenges. Communicating in your preferred behavioural language may result in inappropriately designed messages which are further distorted by a receiver using another behavioural style.

The solution is to master DISCerning Communication. This involves understanding and applying the D-I-S-C Framework.

In our example, the sender identifies Steadiness as the preferred behavioural language of the receiver and decides to be less direct and more patient in order to achieve the desired results. Alternatively, the receiver learns to look beyond tone and style and to focus on core issues. Using DISCerning Communication, an appropriate message is sent and is welcomed by a reformed receiver. Communication is impeded and conflicts arise when the parties in the conversation speak different behavioural languages. Learning and using D-I-S-C - the universal language of behaviours - is a powerful way to avoid conflict. Mutually satisfying results are achieved by modifying communication styles.

Master DISCerning Communication in our SHRM-accredited 3-D Leader Certification: Leading Difficult People programme. Earn PDCs for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certifications. Register now for a face-to-face retreat January 21-23, 2016. Email:

• Trevor E. S. Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy.