By developing your understanding of personality, you can accelerate the process of reconciling differences and view conflict as a tool for growth, rather than a hazard to be avoided.
Conflict is inevitable
After being in a fast-paced, busy industry for several years, I’ve seen how difficult it is to effectively collaborate with a large, diverse group of people at work. When everyone has their own unique way of thinking, working, and communicating, it’s tough to stay on the same page, even if you have years of experience working on or leading teams.
A couple of years ago, I worked with a Designer who we’ll call Amy. She was extremely talented and I deeply admired her work, but when it came to communication, it felt like Amy and I were speaking different languages.
I have always appreciated frequent and clear status updates on tasks, as it helps me understand where the project is heading and prevents potential problems. However, it seemed like Amy took the opposite approach. She liked to spend extended periods of time trying to hammer out an idea. She would work independently and silently, without sharing progress updates. It was even more difficult to stay up-to-date on Amy’s work when she worked on projects at random hours of the night. As her schedule began to stray further from the rest of the team’s, it became nearly impossible to find a time to discuss logistics.
When we did find small moments to talk, much of the conversation was spent frustratingly questioning each other’s actions. Amy frequently seemed annoyed that I wanted to check-in on her. Once, she even made a comment implying that I didn’t trust her. I did, but I needed more information to see her progress and make sure the project was aligned with our overall goals. At times, my dissatisfaction got the better of me and I became overly blunt in my communication, which upset Amy on multiple occasions.
When this happened, I didn’t immediately understand why she felt hurt - direct feedback was always welcome in my world.
This difficult dynamic continued for a while, but as the months passed and we learned more about each others’ personalities, Amy and I began to navigate our conflicts more effectively. It started out with a deal: I would take a step back and allow Amy to work on her own time on the condition that she would ask clarifying questions and voluntarily send updates a couple of times a day so we could stay on the same page. We created a system that both of us could buy into, measure, and change. The more we fine-tuned our new system to account for our personality differences, the more I began to really enjoy having Amy as a coworker. She was always a great designer, but she had become someone I truly wanted to work with.
This story had a positive outcome, as Amy and I developed a productive, trusting, long-lasting professional relationship. But it took a lot of time, and in that period of learning, we were often inefficient and stressed out. Had we understood our differences in the beginning, Amy and I could have avoided much of the initial frustration and built trust between each other more quickly.
By developing your understanding of personality, you can accelerate this process of reconciling differences and view conflict as a tool for growth, rather than a hazard to be avoided.
DISC is a well-known, scientifically-proven four-factor personality model used to classify personalities into a few categories that we refer to as D (dominance), I (influence), S (steadiness), and C (conscientiousness). Each of us has a primary DISC type in one of these categories and sometimes a secondary DISC type in another. To keep things simple, we separate these into easy-to-remember labels called Archetypes.
You can see them all on this graphic called the Personality Map:
Below is a breakdown of common personality traits within each of the categories in DISC.
D Personality Types: Captains, Drivers, Initiators, Architects
Motivated by control over the future and personal authority
Tend to prefer instant, concrete results and having an advantage over competition
Communicate clearly and succinctly
I Personality Types: Influencer, Motivator, Encourager, Harmonizer
Motivated by innovative, unique, creative ideas and excited by the future
Tend to prefer building new relationships and experiences
Communicate in a casual, expressive way
S Personality Types:Counselor, Supporter, Planner, Stabilizer
Motivated by peace, safety, and others’ wellbeing
Tend to prefer security, reliability, and trust
Communicate in a friendly and genuine way
C Personality Types:Editor, Analyst, Skeptic, Questioner
Motivated by logic, information, and problem solving
Tend to prefer accurate information and quality solutions (quality over quantity)
Communicate in a business-like, fact-based way
These differences are extremely important to understand when approaching a conversation with anyone. For example, someone who is a warm, people-oriented Supporter (S) is less likely to engage in a discussion about facts and data. They’d usually prefer to engage in a more personal, get-to-know-you conversation. An Analyst (C), on the other hand, tends to enjoy learning more about specific, concrete information. By identifying someone’s personality type, we can learn how to best communicate with them.
Why change your conflict resolution style based on personality?
Personality affects every intricacy of our communication with one another. In the same way that personality might impact movie preferences, food choices, hobbies, and friendships, it can also influence how we handle interpersonal conflict.
While some people are direct, self-assured, and respond well to a similar level of intensity in times of conflict, others are more sensitive, desiring patient, empathetic communication.
Understanding someone’s personality can help prevent a lot of unnecessary disputes. It’s important to recognize and adjust to individual preferences to avoid drawn out frustration, miscommunication, and confusion. By learning to adjust the dials of how you communicate to adapt to others’ unique way of processing and addressing conflict, you can resolve issues quickly and painlessly.
How to resolve conflict with anyone
Resolving Conflict with D-types
Confident, decisive D-types are usually direct and dominant when facing conflict. They share their thoughts openly and tend to expect others to do the same. When addressing conflict with D-type, focus on getting right to the point. There is no need to remain sensitive to their emotions; they’d rather you be up front and clear about the issue at hand.
If you’re resolving conflict with D-types, try using phrases like this…
I will be relying on you more for...
This is where we may have differing opinions...
Here’s what I want...
Can you help me solve this?
D Personality TypesCaptains, Drivers, Initiators, Architects
Encourage them to take more responsibility
Engage in vigorous, but respectful debate
Be clear about what you want
Let them arrive at solutions on their own
Compromise too easily
Be passive about improving things
Control the conversation too much
Resolving Conflict with I-types
Open-minded, idealistic I-types prefer to work through problems in a calm, light-hearted manner. They may conceal their true thoughts in order to move on from the conflict quickly and avoid negative feelings. When addressing an issue with I-types, it’s important to try to remain upbeat and positive; instead of criticizing their actions, try focusing on relating to them emotionally and asking them for ideas on improving the situation.
If you’re resolving conflict with I-types, try using phrases like this…
I’m sure we’ll be able to figure this out...
Well, that’s one of my weaknesses...
In an ideal world, what does this look like for you?
It seems like you didn’t like what I just said...
I Personality Types Influencer, Motivator, Encourager, Harmonizer
Have an optimistic perspective
Use timely humor to diffuse tense situations
Ask how they see things in the ideal world
Pay attention to the emotion they display with facial expressions
Escalate debate beyond the specific issue at hand
Use purely logical arguments without considering their emotions
Be overly critical of the past
Keep score of past behaviors
Resolving Conflict with S-types
Empathetic, understanding S-types tend to have a difficult time addressing interpersonal problems. Because they are usually focused on maintaining positive, personal relationships with others, they tend to worry about offending or upsetting the other person. In order to get the most out of resolving conflict with S-types, it’s important that you focus on communicating your perspective in a gentle, reassuring way. Remember to persistently ask S-types questions to fully understand their point-of-view.
If you’re resolving conflict with S-types, try using phrases like this…
I think we can make this work for both of us...
I know we both have good intentions...
What’s your view on this?
This is what I appreciate about you...
S Personality TypesCounselor, Supporter, Planner, Stabilizer
Use a diplomatic, fair-minded approach
Clarify that you know their intentions are good
Ask lots of questions to understand their perspective
Demonstrate compassion for their views
Let underlying issues go unspoken
Cut the meeting short before you have resolved things
Assume things have been resolved if they do not push back
Allow them to agree with you too quickly
Resolving Conflict with C-types
Introverted, logical C-types usually prefer to work through conflict efficiently and rationally. They like to keep emotions out of the conversation as much as possible and will likely want to have specific evidence to back up any claims that are made. It’s important to focus on being level-headed and thorough with C-types, avoiding dramatizations and emotional expressions. Keep in mind that with C-types, a resolution is complete when the problem is solved, not when both parties feel more comfortable within their relationship.
If you’re resolving conflict with C-types, try using phrases like this…
This is what the data shows from our experience...
Let’s be logical about this...
Here’s where I hope we land...
What are your specific desires for this?
C Personality TypesEditor, Analyst, Skeptic, Questioner
Use data and real-life evidence to prove your points
Approach arguments logically, with a level head
Set clear expectations for the meeting upfront
Go into detail about your specific desires
Speak with emotionally-charged language
Have unrealistic expectations for how well you will get along
Be overly critical of their methods
Question their ability to fix things
Embrace healthy conflict
Conflict does not need to be uncomfortable or awkward and it absolutely cannot be avoided. Healthy debate often leads to the most innovative solutions, since it provides a platform for bringing the best ideas to the surface and allowing the others to be discarded.
Personality differences can make conflict difficult to navigate, but it is a skill that any communication professional or leader must acquire and develop to be successful.
By taking the time to learn more about how the people around you like to work through conflict, you can discuss contentious issues with confidence and build more trusting relationships at work. Used in its proper context, DISC accelerates this process.