Sun | Sep 19, 2021

How To Be More Discerning With Others

Published:Monday | October 19, 2015 | 12:00 AM

My two-year-old granddaughter makes it clear when I can sing along and when I am to be silent. I discern that compliance is required.

DISCernment enhances inter-personal relations and effective leadership. Today, I introduce the concept of DISCerning communication. The concept incorporates behavioural preferences. Questions about the value and validity of classifying behavioural styles are based on a critical misapplication of the concept.

Let me demonstrate the pitfalls and beneficial use with the analogy of clothing preferences.

I have a preference for wearing blue. However, a pitfall would be to label me as a blue-shirt man. I am not wedded to blue, and wear other colours. It is beneficial for the clothing store to know that there are people who have a preference for blue, and so stock accessories and variations to satisfy them. However, it would be an error to confine their discourse with me to only items of blue. I might be seeking to diversify my wardrobe.

The fundamental principle is the need to separate the behaviour from the person. Treat the individual with an open mind, not knowing what they might want this time. Once they indicate a preference, then roll out the things that are best suited to that style.

This approach dramatically improves the capacity of the store to satisfy customers. They identify the cross section of preferences that they will serve and work out how to best serve the needs of each preference. They do not need to be concerned that customers might have complex tastes. They focus on learning to discern when a classified preference is displayed and roll out their tested strategy for satisfying the identified need.

Now, it could be that in a single encounter, the customer displays different - even conflicting, preferences. That is fine. But be clear about which preference is being addressed at any point in time, and present the solution that meets those needs. Then move to the next.

The challenge we have created with behavioural classifications comes from the need to affix labels on others. The store staff says here comes blue-preference Trevor and shuts down every other expectation of my behaviour. Then when I am drawn to the flaming red turtleneck there is shock and their faith in the classification concept is dented. Focus on behaviour, not on individuals!

Properly defined behavioural classifications are consistent, people are not. Learn to identify behaviour and how best to respond to or manage them and life's journey is a lot easier to navigate.

That is the real value of behavioural classifications facilitating inter-personal relationships. Stapling types as labels on the foreheads of others is a misuse.

However, the question remains: Is the store owner who invests in having customers fill out a questionnaire that highlights their preferences wasting time and money?

Not at all, and here is why. The store owner soon realises that the range of preferences could be reduced to a manageable number of classifications. For simplicity, here she realises that at its core, her customers have a prevailing preference for variations of red, yellow, green, blue. She uses that understanding to learn everything about relating to the nuances of each category (colour) and meeting their needs. She figures that showing blue might attract my interest, but the minute I signal I am into red today, she rolls out her red sales plan.

The beauty of behaviour-based discernment is that the owner has the flexibility to deal effectively with both old and new customers. She discerns what's going on with each customer in this moment and acts accordingly. DISCerning Communication works!

Next time, we will share a proven framework to guide you into how to use DISCerningCommunication.

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• Trevor E S Smith is a Behaviour Modification Coach with the Success with People Academy, which is recognised by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for the SHRM-CPSM or SHRM-SCPSMCertifications.