People Power - March 2006

By Scott Humphrey

Relationships are the driving factor in personal and professional success. There’s little debate about their importance, even in today’s high tech environment. People still buy from people, not companies. Employees still work for bosses, not corporations. And when it comes right down to it, people still marry spouses, not families. 

In this column, I want to introduce you to the concept of adapting your behavioral style to the style of those you interact with. In months to come, I’ll go into even more detail on how you can use your knowledge of these styles to have an even greater impact on your personal and professional life.

We’re all wired differently. Hippocrates believed this as far back as 400 BC. He believed that there were four distinct types of people, whose personalities were determined by the rate that fluids flowed through their bodies. His reasoning might have been far-fetched, but the fact that people could be grouped by behavioral style could not be denied. In 1928, W.M. Marston, the creator of the polygraph, took Hippocrates’ theory of four distinct styles and backed it with science. He came up with the behavioral profile commonly known as DISC (D=Dominance, I=Influence, S=Steadiness, C=Conscientiousness). 

According to the website, “DISC is the original, most validated, reliable personal assessment used by over 50 million people to improve lives, interpersonal relationships, work productivity, teamwork and communication.”

There’s a vast library of information available on each of these personalities, from their body language to how they communicate. We’ll tap into that information in coming months, but it’s not recognizing these differences that will move your relationships to the next level, but the key skill of adapting to them. That’s one of the most powerful skills a leader can have at home and at work. Those who succeed at the highest levels naturally adapt their style to the style of the person or persons with whom they’re communicating.

Let me illustrate:

I went to a private college. Many things were off limits in my school, and one of those things was dancing. This really shouldn’t have bothered me—I’m a terrible dancer—but I’m also the type of person who can’t stand being told I can’t do something. So I set out to find a way around this barrier.

Before long, I found out there was a “Show Choir” on campus. The Show Choir was a group that sang and danced to Broadway show tunes. It seemed like the easiest way to get around a rule that made no sense to me, so I tried out for the group. I enjoy singing, and because I have some ability in that area, I was chosen to join the group. 

My timing couldn’t have been better. The year before I was accepted, the group placed third in a national competition. We got to travel all over the U.S., playing at performing arts schools and at functions associated with the religious denomination of my university.

Needless to say, the shows before that last audience were quite different. We were told that we couldn’t use our hips. (It must have been some holdover from the days of Elvis.) But when performing for the schools, it was very important that you used your hips and all the energy you had.

I’m one of those people who wants to be consistent. I began to feel like a hypocrite. Finally I couldn’t take any more. I went to the director of our group and said that I wouldn’t be back the following year. I just couldn't stand the hypocrisy of being one way with one audience and another way with another. 

I’ll never forget her response. She had no idea I would go into business one day, but she gave me some of the best business advice I’ve ever received. She said, “That’s not hypocrisy. It's called playing your audience. You have the God-given ability to adapt your style to your audience. Give the audience what they pay to see.”

Examine the truth in that statement:

#1. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
In his best selling relationship book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman writes that there are five ways that people express and receive love: verbal affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. He goes on to explain that our natural tendency is to express love the way we like to receive it.  Unfortunately, our love language is often not the language of our mate. Chapman concludes, “In order to receive love the way you want it, you must give love the way they want it.”

#2. Everyone has an audience.
It's not the size of your audience that matters, but what they take away from their encounter with you. Your audience may be your child, your spouse, or the people who work for you or with you. 

#3. A surefire way to fail is to treat every audience the same.
I’m convinced if people would adapt to their audience, it would make a difference in every relationship in their life. 

I have triplet daughters who are three and a son who’s seven. My son Christian is just like me, but the girls, though they were born minutes apart, all have distinctly different personalities. If I parent them all the same, I’ll fail. Anna Grace is tender hearted. I only need to look at her a certain way to get her to behave. Mary Kate is strong willed. With her I must “lay down the law.” Faith is an individualist. I have to reason with her to get her to understand the guidelines and boundaries my wife and I have developed.

I don't know about you, but I perform at my best when I realize there’s an audience. An audience with differing behavioral styles surrounds you. I challenge you to live life with the knowledge that you’re on stage and begin to evaluate every interaction to determine if you’re making the necessary adjustments to secure success in all your relationships. 

Copyright 2006 Floor Focus Inc