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Using DISCerning Communication To Deal With Difficult People

Published:Tuesday | November 17, 2015 | 12:00 AMTrevor Smith

Here is a different strategy for relating to difficult people.

First, appreciate that many difficult situational challenges are really DISCerning Communication issues. The difficulties are largely a clash of behavioural styles.

When we recognise that difficulties are a conflict of behavioural preferences, we are able to apply proven strategies to resolve them. However, if we tie the difficult situation challenges to the individual, then it is more challenging to find answers.

A Map of Behavioural Preferences

Dominance, Inducement, Steadiness and Conscientiousness (DISC)

To get a better sense of how behavioural styles confuse communication, we take a few examples from Dominant Style traits. Others interpret direct as blunt, undiplomatic and insensitive. Decisive gets translated as rash and reluctant to conduct proper analysis.

Independent is viewed as being selfish and not a team player.

What happens when we use DISCerning Communication?

Let's use Don to represent Dominance, and Susan represent Steadiness and examine their perspective on 'direct'.

Johnny (colleague) has a problem with body odour. Don's approach is to place his arm around Johnny's shoulder and speak directly to the BO challenge, advising that this brand of deodorant could solve the problem.

Susan reflects for a long time on how to get the message across to Johnny without hurting his feelings. Finally, she devices some subtle approaches to give Johnny a hint. Susan thinks Don's approach is insensitive. It will hurt Johnny's feeling.

Don thinks Susan's approach takes forever while she devises her diplomacy. In the end, Johnny might even miss the message.

This brings their communication to a difference of approach rather than a personal issue. We can disagree, but it is on the grounds of approach, not annoying personal flaws. We open our minds to the possibility that there may be an alternative point of view. There is a tendency to be less emotional in those circumstances.

Let us review an inducement style case

Team members who have a preference for the I-style are often simultaneously the source of great pleasure and immense frustration.

Reliability is the major issue for others. "But you said you would ..." is a recurring phrase.

Here is a radically different perspective that might save you from pulling out more hair.

Our DISCerning Communication skills inform us that a feature of the I-Style is the desire to please. They seek success with and through people. Given the need to please others, there is a tendency to say yes readily. There is also their need for interaction.

Let's use Ivan as an example. You ask him to do you a favour and he says "Sure." What are Ivan's realities?

He has a full-time job, is president of his Citizens' Association, vice-president with responsibilities for member issues at his service club, and enrolled in evening classes. Honestly, where would Ivan find the time to do your favour?

The bottom line is that people using the I-Style have a tendency to overcommit. Their desire to please and to connect makes them want to serve. We poke fun at Ivan by noting that when he says "Consider it done", he instantly considers it as having been done.

How does DISCerning Communication help? 

1. Take care to have Ivan clarify if his response is yes (meaning I would like to help) or a genuine commitment to completing your task.

2. Discuss implementation so that the issue is moved from the surface.

3. Establish deadlines.

4. Put reminders in place.

5. Monitor progress.

DISCerning Communication makes a difference.

See if you qualify for a free pass to an interactive mini-workshop on 'How To Manage Conflict With DISCerning Communication Techniques', Kingston, Thursday November 26. 5:30- 8 p.m.

E-mail name, organisation and your role to Limited number of passes.

These principles are also incorporated in our 3-D Leader Certification: Leading Difficult People programme. The programme is accredited by SHRM and offers 16 PDCs for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certifications. It involves over 16 facilitator-led, interactive hours of coaching plus 12 months of access to online courseware, email consultation, webinars and an exclusive Facebook community. Face-to-face retreat January 21-23, 2016. Register now!

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