DISC is a useful tool for understanding yourself and others. The DISC Behavior types were developed by Dr. William Moulton Marston, a Harvard-educated psychologist. According to his DISC profile theory, humans exhibit four basic, predictable behavioral variations. DISC stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. DISC behavioral styles suggest that we all demonstrate these four basic behavioral tendencies to varying degrees.

DISC Overview

What is DISC

DISC is a behavioral model created by William Moulton Marston in 1928. The DISC model describes the four behavioral styles as Dominance (D), Influence (I), Stability (S), and Conscientiousness (C). The term behavioral style, however, was originally defined by Marston as “primary emotions” and their associated behavioral responses. The same was stated in his book “Emotions of Normal People”.

After observing several people, Marston began to notice remarkable similarities among them. Despite their physical differences, they shared many similarities in their behavior. He conducted a systematic analysis of all the similarities, resulting in the following summary of four ways people tend to act:

  • Some individuals were forceful, direct, and result-oriented
  • Some seemed optimistic, fun, and talkative
  • Some displayed steadiness, patience, and relaxation
  • Some were very precise, accurate, and detailed-oriented

The researchers also found that some individuals exhibited characteristics of more than one of the behaviors, but only one of the behaviors was deemed to be the strongest. Furthermore, he stated that if we become as similar as the person we are conversing with, then perhaps we will be able to communicate more effectively and establish better interpersonal relationships.

There have been several changes and modifications to the DISC model since its inception, which has greatly aided its development. The DISC model evolved into a universal language of observable behavior over time. This is also supported by scientific research.

What DISC is not?

To understand what DISC is, we need to first establish what DISC is not.

  • DISC does not measure a person’s intelligence.
  • DISC does not indicate a person’s values.
  • DISC does not measure skills and experience.
  • DISC does not measure education or training.
  • Then, what is DISC and why is it important?

The DISC is a language of behavior and emotions that is neutral and universal. It provides an understanding of our natural tendencies and our behavior. Behavioral characteristics are a crucial component of a person’s identity. It is important to note that much of our behavior is influenced by our nature (innate) and much by our nurture (upbringing). DISC simply measures a person’s behavioral style, i.e., the way he or she behaves.

It is said that DISC is a neutral language, which means that right and wrong have no bearing on it. It is not a person’s behavioral style that determines whether they are good or bad, right, or wrong. Rather, right, and wrong are determined by the values and beliefs of individuals. DISC describes only the difference in how people approach problems, other people, pace, and procedures.

The Two Dimensions of DISC

At the core, the DISC model is two dimensional. The two dimensions reflect fundamental aspects of human nature.

The first dimension is “pace” which is visualized with a vertical axis that runs from fast-paced at the top to moderate-paced at the bottom. Pace describes the person’s outward activity level. A fast-paced person displays a high level of outward energy which is characterized by being outspoken and assertive. A person scoring towards the bottom of this dimension is moderate paced displaying a moderate to low level of outward energy. People who are moderately paced display characteristics such as thoughtful, careful, and uncomfortable taking risks.

It is easy to identify the pace of a person – simply notice their “walking-talking-shopping” style. Fast paced individuals walk and talk fast and do not take their own sweet time to shop. If they like something, they buy it. Whereas, moderately paced individuals would preferably do some research, read reviews, look for options, compare pros and cons before shopping. Additionally, they walk and talk slower than a fast-paced person.

The second dimension is “orientation” which is visualized as a horizontal axis that runs from being task-oriented to being people-oriented. Orientation refers to a person’s inclination either towards task or people. Task-oriented individuals are sceptical – they are analytical, questioning, and cynical and focus more on results. People-oriented individuals are accepting – they are trusting and receptive of others, are friendly and strive to maintain social harmony.

To identify the orientation of an individual takes a little longer. The first most noticeable characteristic is the pace of the person. By being a little more observant and identifying the pace and orientation of oneself and others, we can recognize the DISC style.


Charles Moulton Marston, a famous academic & psychologist, and a women’s rights activist, proposed DISC as a behavioral model in 1928. He’s the author of the Wonder Women comic series. Marston lived with two women – his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and partner Olive Byrne, and both were immensely influential in the creation of the Wonder Woman character. Besides being the inventor of the polygraph machine (lie detector), he’s also the researcher and psychologist behind DISC Theory.

According to Marston, telling a lie raises blood pressure. He created the systolic blood pressure test using the polygraph machine. The systolic blood pressure test is one of the most important elements of today’s polygraphs. Interestingly, Elizabeth Holloway Marston, William Marston’s wife, first suggested that blood pressure and emotions are connected.

A big influence on academic writing of that era, Marston had a deep interest in human behavior. Marston wrote a book called “EMOTIONS OF NORMAL PEOPLE” in which he revealed what influences behavior. In his behavioral model, Marston relates behavior to two axes – one that is influenced by people’s perceptions of their surroundings, while the other is influenced by how they perceive power in relation to the environment. He came up with the DISC theory by putting those axes at a right angle. Marston’s DISC theories had four dimensions:

  • Dominance (now called dominance) – Observable activity in an antagonistic environment
  • Inducement (now called influence) – Observable activity in a favorable environment
  • Submission (now called steadiness) – Observable passivity in a favorable environment
  • Compliance (now called conscientiousness) – Observable passivity in an antagonistic environment

Empedocles (444 BC) also used the four elements model. The pre-Socratic philosophers explained human behavior by referring to four external, environmental factors. The four roots or elements were WATER, AIR, FIRE, and EARTH, according to Empedocles. Hippocrates thought to have expanded on this notion later. In Hippocrates’ Four Temperaments and Galen’s Four Humors, a balance of four bodily fluids is needed to maintain health – Phlegm/Phlegmatic as an element of water, Yellow Bile/choleric as an element of fire, Black Bile/Melancholic as an element of earth and Blood/Sanguine as an element of air.

ICarl Gustav Jung developed the theory around personality types in the early 1920s, which later evolved into the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).Carl Jung maintains that personality comes from internal influences and that personality types come from how we think and process information. In his book Psychological Types, Carl Jung describes the different types of personalities based on the way we perceive the world – Sensation, Intuition, Feeling, and Thinking. The Myer Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) questionnaire was first published in 1943 by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers. Interestingly, when Katharine Briggs first met Clarence Myers, Isabel’s future husband, she was fascinated by his way of seeing things. Afterward, she did a thorough literature review and created an instrument based on Carl Jung’s “Psychological” types. Educational Testing Service published the MBTI questionnaire before it was sold to Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP). This questionnaire comes in 14 languages now.

Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist, created an instrument to help companies hire qualified people in 1956. He published a checklist of adjectives based on DISC theory by William Moulton Marston.

Walter Clarke Associates then invented a new version of this instrument for John Cleaver – around a decade after the original. They called it Self-Description. Rather than giving you a checklist of adjectives to describe your behavior, this questionnaire asked you to pick between two or more terms. DISC was developed based on factor analysis of this assessment. John Geier, Ph.D., used Self-Description to create the original Personal Profile System® (PPS).

In addition to his work as an international consultant, Dr. John Geier founded Geier Learning International, Performax Learning Network, and Carlson Learning. Later, Carlson Learning became Inscape Publishing, which was recently acquired by John Wiley & Sons. The 15 styles proposed by Clarke became the 15 classical patterns – Achiever, Agent, Appraiser, Counselor, Creative, Developer, Inspirational, Investigator, Objective Thinker, Perfectionist, Persuader, Practitioner, Promoter, Result-oriented and Specialist.

The DISC Quadrants

DISC stands for Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).

Each of these quadrants refers to a set of typical responses or behaviors people are expected to exhibit. According to the two-dimensional model, D and I styles are fast paced, while S and C styles are moderately paced. In the same way, D and C styles are task-oriented or skeptical and S and C styles are people-oriented.

It’s important to note that individuals with a D style will not only exhibit the characteristics of that style. Everyone is a combination of all four styles. Being in one of the quadrants implies that the characteristics defining that style are the dominant behaviors and preferences of the individual. A D style characteristic, for example, corresponds to a person’s dominant behavioral tendencies. Occasionally, an individual with a D style may also exhibit characteristics of I, S, or C styles.

To achieve greater differentiation, each of the four DISC styles can be further subdivided into three more segments. Thus, 12 DISC styles may be identified. Four of these twelve styles are “pure” or “natural” styles, namely, D, I, S, and C. The remaining eight styles are combinations of two styles, namely, DI, ID, IS, SI, SC, CS, CD, and DC.

Let us now examine each style in more detail:

Dominance/Influence (DI or ID) styles: Both these styles are fast-paced and dynamic by nature. People belonging to either of these styles tend to be more action oriented, bold, and impulsive. The combination of self-confidence and social poise characterizes these personalities, and it is this combination that leads them to be entrepreneurial and risk-takers.

Influence (I) styles:  I styles are lively, energetic, and extremely outgoing. These individuals are energetic and have positive interpersonal relationships. High energy and enthusiasm are two adjectives that describe them.

Influence/Stability (IS or SI) styles: These styles are enthusiastic, but not as extreme as I style. They’re gentler and cheerier. They’re both trusting of others and look for the best in people. Their best attributes are compassionate and welcoming. The IS styles are more upbeat and lighthearted, whereas the Si styles are more supportive and friendly.

Steadiness (S) styles: S styles are both interpersonally warm and moderately paced and therefore, are described as calm, peaceful, or even-tempered. Supportive in nature, S styles are also very accommodating and show a lot of concern for others.

Consistency/Steadiness (SC or CS) styles: Different from D styles, these two styles take less action and are more deliberate. Making decisions for them is usually a step-by-step process. These two styles prefer to be behind the scenes of all actions and demonstrate a great deal of passivity.

Consciousness (C) styles: The best adjective to describe C styles is analytical. People who are C styles are more reserved than enthusiastic, the exact opposite of I styles. They tend to be cautious and skeptical about expressing emotions and make decisions based on logical reasoning and data.

Consciousness/dominance (CD or DC) styles: Both are task-oriented and skeptical, but not to the point of being highly aggressive or highly withdrawn. The best word to describe it is challenging. DC styles are resolute and strong-willed, while CD styles are unsentimental.

Dominance (D) styles: The most direct way to describe D styles are as being dominant. Direct, result-oriented, competitive, strong-willed, and forceful, D types do not care about other people’s preferences.

This is a description of the 12 behavioral styles. After reviewing the DISC model, do you think we should learn about it?

According to Judy Suiter, “You must first invest in order to reap the rewards.”. Investing always precedes return. Always.” Understanding the DISC model and its language is like an investment – an investment that yields better interpersonal relationships, effective team building, and increased commitment by preventing conflict. If we become aware and understand the behavioral tendencies of ourselves and others, we can become more effective in communicating with others and pave the way for increased positive results.

Introduction to DISC Styles

There are some people with whom we gel at work. Our wavelength matches, our thought processes are similar, and we accept each other’s ideas and perspective, and the execution becomes seamless. However, we also meet some people with whom we have a hard time, we don’t communicate well, and our thought processes are out of sync, which results in conflict and poor business outcomes. It’s all about how your mind, personality and behavior fit into your work environment when you work with people. You know that time when you just don’t get a sense of your co-worker’s personality? Although your intentions are good, why do some of your co-workers keep misinterpreting what you’re saying? You have a few co-workers you experience destructive conflict with, but most conflicts can be sorted out by getting to know each other’s personalities and behaviors.

To be a successful team, you need to be able to work well with different personalities. Everybody brings something different to the table, be it a strong work ethic, creative ideas, or execution skills. We need to acknowledge these differences. Workplace differences can be identified and managed with DISC personality frameworks. Employers use the DISC assessment to identify work-related behaviors, personalities, communication styles, and effectiveness. There are four key personality characteristics that describe how people approach work and connections, but your profile report has 12 sub-styles.

The DISC model is a great tool for understanding yourself and others, which can improve all kinds of relationships. Using the DISC tools above, you should be able to get a better idea of your preferences and those of the people around you. Understanding each other helps us work together in better ways—at work in our social relationships, and with our stake holders.

Pure Styles

Here are a few things to know about each of DISC styles. Here are 4 behavioral tendencies to help us define people:

  • Outgoing
  • Reserved
  • Task-oriented
  • People-oriented

These four tendencies show up at different times and in different situations. Even so, most people have one or two of these personality traits that work for them. Some of these tendencies don’t quite fit their personality and may even seem alien to their way of thinking. How a person balances these four tendencies determines how they see the world and the people around them.

Dominant – results, action, challenge

Goals: Bottom-line results, victory

Fears: Being taken advantage of or appearing weak

Leadership qualities: taking charge, being confident, focusing on results

People with the D style are direct, goal-driven, firm, and strong-willed. It’s all about pushing themselves and others hard to achieve their goals. They try to control people and situations by force, while keeping their preferences in mind. Because of their skepticism and dynamism, they put a lot of energy into pursuing their goals. People with a D style tend to be fast, strong-minded, competitive, and tough-minded. Conceptually, this style is all about being direct and forceful.

Influence – enthusiasm, action, collaboration

Goals: Popularity, approval, excitement

Fears: Rejection, not being heard

Leadership qualities: Being enthusiastic, building relationships

You’ll find people with this style are outgoing and lively. Individuals with this style are energetic and very positive in their relationships. People usually describe them as upbeat and enthusiastic. In terms of behavior, they’re talkative and are always looking for new social opportunities. Generally, this style is social and energetic.

Steadiness– support, stability, collaboration

Goals: Harmony, stability

Fears: Letting people down, rapid change


Leadership qualities: Listening, showing diplomacy

Generally, they’re considered gentle. S-style people are friendly and don’t show a lot of energy. They’re calm and peaceful. Moderate paced and a more accepting personality. Individuals with S styles tend to be more patient and accommodating. They care about the people around them. This style is characterized by two main concepts: being calm and accommodating others.

 Conscientiousness – accuracy, stability, challenge

Goals:  Accuracy, objective processes

Fears: Criticism, strong displays of emotion

Leadership qualities: communicating clearly, promoting discipline analysis

C styles are analytical. C styles prefer quiet, analytical, and formal surroundings. They’re more reserved than average people and most of the time, they keep it to themselves. People describe them as cautious and sceptical. They have a reserved way of dealing with others. They’re systematic, and they’re focused on accuracy. This style is analytical, precise, and private.

Combination Styles

If you look at a person’s natural DISC profile, you can figure out their DISC personality type. Your response to an external stimulus determines your natural DISC profile. This style of behavior typically requires the least amount of energy and effort, requires the least amount of conscious mental effort, and is the most enjoyable for the person involved.

Even though D,I,S,C are pure styles, all 12 styles are natural styles, since people are a combination of all four styles and they can only help us put people into context. The styles used to represent the combination have some characteristics of both styles.

DI – action, results, enthusiasm

Goals: Quick action, new opportunities

Fears: Loss of power

Leadership qualities: Stretching the boundaries, finding opportunities

 ID – action, enthusiasm, results

Goals: Exciting breakthroughs

Fears: Fixed environments, loss of approval or attention

Leadership qualities: Finding opportunities, promoting bold action

People who belong to the DI or ID styles are described as being dynamic. They are generally bold and adventurous. Also, they are more likely than the average person to have self-confidence and social poise that can be characterized as magnetic or inspiring. In a nutshell, the Di style is described as convincing and daring, whereas the ID style is described as animated and inspirational. In general, these styles both exhibit the two major conceptual elements of being bold and biased toward action.

 DC – challenge, results, accuracy

Goals: Independence, personal accomplishment

Fears: Failure to achieve to their own standards

Leadership qualities: Setting high expectations, speaking up about problems

 CD – challenge, accuracy, results

Goals: Efficient results, rational decisions

Fears: Failure, lack of control

Leadership qualities: Creates high standards, improving methods

Individuals in DC & CD are more sceptical than the average individual, but they do not go to the extremes of either being aggressive or highly reclusive. They are often described as challenging, as they often challenge ideas and other people. The people who describe themselves as these are highly logical and possess strong critical thinking skills. It is more difficult for them to show sympathy or patience for others who do not fit their standards. Because they may not engage in social niceties, they are frequently perceived as cynical or defensive. Compared to the CD style, the DC style is described accurately as resolute and strong-willed. The two major components of these styles are being sceptical and being irritable or prone to frustration.

IS – collaboration, enthusiasm, support

Goals: Friendship

Fears: Pressuring others, being disliked

Leadership qualities: Being approachable, acknowledging contributions

SI – collaboration, support, enthusiasm

Goals: Acceptance, close relationships

Fears: Being forced to pressure others, facing aggression

Leadership qualities: Creating a positive environment, acknowledging contributions

People who are positive, moderately enthusiastic, and gentle fit into the IS & SI category. Statistically, cheerful is the most suitable adjective for these styles. Their belief is that others are their best selves. They’re compassionate and friendly. IS people are upbeat and lighthearted, whereas SI people are supportive and agreeable. The two main concepts in both styles are being positive and showing empathy.

SC – stability, support, accuracy

Goals: Calm environments, fixed objectives, steady progress

Fears: Time pressure, uncertainty, chaos

Leadership qualities: Maintaining composure, being fair minded

 CS – stability, accuracy, support

Goals: Stability, reliable outcomes

Fears: Emotionally charged situations, ambiguity

Leadership qualities: Showing modesty, being fair minded

It’s considered that the SC and CS styles are less action-oriented and more deliberate. When it comes to decision making, they’re steady and take things one at a time. Don’t take as much energy outwardly as other people. This style is also passive. People in this category are soft-spoken, and they let others control them. Those who follow the SC style describe themselves as unassuming and modest, while those who follow the CS style describe themselves as quiet and in control. The two main concepts in these styles are caution and passive.

DISC compared with other Psychometric Instruments

Several of our trainers are certified to administer a variety of other instruments in addition to DISC. Each instrument has a particular application. After the reliability and validity of a psychometric instrument has been established, further consideration must be given to the knowledge needed to administer the instrument. Psychometric assessment is frequently followed by coaching and training. Consequently, we need to determine what kind of support, training, and resources we have access to in order to implement a corporate learning program.

In most cases, DISC and Myer Brigg Type Indicators are used in conjunction with each other. Their applications differ. It has been our experience that DISC is more behavioral in its context and is a helpful tool for corporate training programs to develop behavioral flexibility. The Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) provides insight into personality types and is often used as a tool for self-awareness.

When two people take a Psychometric/Behavioral test, they become more aware of their own behavioral priorities. It is essential that we understand our own behavioral style, discern other individuals’ styles or priorities, and then treat them according to their preferences. Due to the fact that there are only four styles within DISC, it is easy to recognize (and remember) the styles of others.

According to Wikipedia, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is ” a psychometric questionnaire designed to assess psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.” The instrument consists of 8 traits, 4 pairs of seemingly opposing traits.

The opposing trait pairs are in MBTI are:

Extroversion (E) – (I) Introversion

Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition

Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling

Judging (J) – (P) Perception

Based on these factors, the assessment determines a personality type consisting of four letters based on the type that an individual prefers from the four pairs. Such as ENFP, ENTJ, INFP, etc. MBTI is an established, well documented tool with a good reputation.

Corporate rollouts of assessments are complicated. The acquisition of sponsorship, the establishment of a common business need, motivating and making participants committed to the program, and of course the budget, all play an important role in the effectiveness of the program. In order to ensure the sustainability of an initiative, it is important to make the content easy to remember. This is where DISC excels. As a result of having only four types and a visual representation on a DISC circular diagram, it supports varied teaching methods. It is suitable for both beginners and experienced participants. To put it simply, it is easy to remember and easier to implement. A DISC assessment may be most suitable for identifying your strengths and challenges and gaining knowledge on what type of environment suits you best – if you have the objective of understanding how to relate to co-workers, peers, managers, and even family members. It is simple and practical.

The following are some factors to consider when selecting a psychometric instrument:

  • What is the outcome of this initiative? For example, behavioral development, recruitment, succession planning, internal mobility, etc.
  • Are the participants experienced and committed?
  • How important is it to keep the roll out simple and memorable (consider the roll out over a period of three to six months)?
  • How will the business benefit from this initiative?
  • What is the role of each participant in the organization? DISC, for example, offers role-specific reports. When reports are specifically tailored to a role, respondents are more likely to relate to them. The ED Work of Leaders is for leaders, the ED Management for managers, the ED Workplace for managers, and the ED Sales for sales representatives.
  • What is the budget and how will the debriefing session be conducted?

If so, are you equipped with the requisite support and resources to facilitate the roll-out? Strengthscape, for example, provides ongoing support for its DISC certified trainers – virtually across the globe and in person where possible – to build sessions, a complimentary online DISC certification as a refresher, as well as homegrown training games and activities to ensure your training programs are both efficient and enjoyable.

The above comparison is based on feedback from our trainers and the experience of our customers. This comparison is not exhaustive. Several of our trainers have more extensive experience using DISC and therefore prefer to use it.

With over 50 million assessments completed worldwide to date, a strong financial and management commitment to research and a strong network of Authorized Partners, the Everything DISC series of DISC assessments is our preferred series of behavioral assessments.