“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” These profound words are by Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And they may help light the way to improving workplace communication skills for colleagues who have to contend with difficult personalities at the office.
Improving workplace communication skills with DiSC
Equally illuminating is a tool called DiSC. It tags 4 personality styles and helps trainees understand each one. Dominant. Influential. Steadfast. Conscientious. We’re all a unique combination of these, and each of us has at least 1 main style.
For many of us trudging up the ladder of success in corporate America, the D stands for much more than Dominant—definitely! Depending on the day and the deadline looming over everyone’s heads, it may also stand for Dramatic. Demanding. Dogmatic. Disrespectful. Definitely!
Dominant personalities can turn any group into a dream team or an absolute nightmare. On the positive side, these Ds are drivers! They fully embrace deadlines and are eager to get going. They’re doers! They thrive on challenges and failure is not an option for them.
Unfortunately, there’s a downer side to Ds. First of all, they often come across as impatient. “Wait” is a 4-letter word they hate the most!
Their zeal to get the job done may make them impatient and even impertinent when dealing with data. Where you might hear details, they may hear droning. You know: “Wonk wonk wonk,” like kids listening to adults in Charles Schultz’s Peanuts comic strip.
Whatever it takes, Dominants want one thing: to get the job done NOW! They’re even willing to over-commit themselves in order to meet a deadline. But what may look like devotion and dedication to their superiors may seem like arrogance to their subordinates. Dominants often leave their colleagues feeling overlooked and disregarded. So while Dominants may pay a high price for overexertion; their colleagues pay an emotional price, too—resentment created by what feels like disrespect!
A little background on personality types
In Greece, more than a thousand years ago, Hippocrates believed that personalities were the by-product of “humors” or the balance of fluids in the body. Widely regarded as the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates identified 4 humors: Sanguine. Choleric.Melancholic. Phlegmatic.
Sanguine personalities were deemed optimistic and had a lot of the humor called blood. A choleric personality was irritable and had a lot of the humor Hippocrates called yellow bile. Melancholics were depressed and had the humor he described as black bile. Phlegmatics were sluggish and had the humor called phlegm.
So according to Hippocrates, our domineering D is merely being sanguine, and he’d translate this A-type personality as simply being “optimistic.” No doubt there’s nothing “humorous” or optimistic about dealing with such a difficult and demanding colleague today.
Modern medicine discovered that instead of humors, hormones are the chemicals coursing through our veins which influence our personalities. And indeed, psychologists have made major advancements in their understanding of what makes our psyches tick.
Your personality is actually all of your invisible character traits that come together and create a visible picture of your “self,” that is, who you are. They make themselves visible through your behavior. But it’s easy for people to misinterpret what they see. An understanding of those invisible traits is the key to improving workplace communication skills.
DiSC personality training is key
Understanding your own personality style will help you cope with those of your coworkers—subordinates and superiors. As you become increasingly aware of your own behaviors—including emotions, agendas, and motives—you will become more tolerant of others’.
Following are 5 tips on how to navigate through the development of a relationship with your favorite office Dominant.
1. Don’t misread a Dominant’s confidence
Ironically, as confident as they often appear, many Dominants are really rather insecure. They don’t want to be taken advantage of but often set themselves up for it by overdoing everything. The result is that they may not only be taken advantage of, but they make enemies along the way. Overlooking others. Overriding authority. This can become a vicious cycle unless it’s detected and derailed!
- Make sure the details matter
While Dominants may be impatient with them, they’ll lap up every detail you dish out if they can see how the data will move the project forward. Making it palatable and easily applicable will win them over quickly.
- Make sure they know that they matter
This isn’t about appeasing an already overinflated ego! No! Dominants are people, too. So they need to know that their willingness to go the extra mile is appreciated.
- Make sure they understand the assignment and their role
Because in their enthusiasm, they often run off with the cart and the horse, it may help to meet with all concerned parties first; clarify all aspects of an assignment and each person’s role—particularly who is accountable to whom!
- Help them become more self-aware
For example, while commending them for going the extra mile, point out some behaviors that may have made their colleagues feel run-over. Gentle, constructive criticism that’s about getting the job done instead of picking on them will be well received because Dominants want to be better in order to do better! Remember: they’re doers!