Couples Counseling with DISC

Couples Counseling with DISC

Most people enter a relationship thinking “this just might be the one.” In the very beginning, both people seem to be in-sync, but over time the combination of differing personalities and communication issues cause most couples to become out of sync. It’s this moment in which couples may turn to a counseling service, and understanding their different personalities is the first step in helping the love birds get back on track.

What’s love got to do with it?

In the world of DISC theory, people have three natural states of self-being:

  • The perceived self
  • The private self
  • The public self

How we act towards someone new isn’t always based on how we actually feel about them. Sometimes it’s about how we feel about ourselves in a new situation or environment. Entering into a new relationship, people act as they would under stress or on behalf of their “public self.” Some become extremely cautious and tentative or just the opposite, overly talkative. As the couple settles down, people switch to their “private self.” This is how a person acts when they are at home, or when they have taken off their “mask” and are in their most natural and comfortable state of being.

Looking through “rose colored glasses”

Depending on how long people have been acting in their public or perceived self, one of two things seem to commonly happen:

1. They get mistaken as being “fake” because they “aren’t the same person they met” and now it seems their true colors are shining through.

-- Or –

2. Their partner falls deeper in love with who they are; even if this person seems to become someone who isn’t who they want.

Remember, people evolve and change based on our situation, environment and the people around us, and also our own perception of situations can bring conflict as different personalities start to clash.

Different communication preferences

As a couples’ therapist, you already know every personality style has different communication preferences and the importance of relaying the basics of DISC theory to your clients. If one of the partners is overly analytical, as can be the case with a “C” style, the other half may want to hold back from a discussion and give the “C” time to think about what they want to say first. Three months down the line, they should be prepared to be asked questions about something they have long forgotten. Inadvertently, an “I” style may share something personal to someone else during an innocent conversation. A “D” style may eventually use things against you, manipulate the situation or use what they know as a “get even” tactic. The “S” style will hold a grudge, not revealing what he or she is truly feeling, while acting out in a passive-aggressive manner.

Healthy dialogue, open discussion, empathy – these are all things every great relationship needs to survive. It’s not always about what is actually said, but learning what to say and how to say it can make the biggest difference in the world.

Building trust

When you get to know someone and learn who they are at their core, you will also learn what makes them tick. If one partner is a risk-taker who tends to act on a whim, this might be a problem for the other partner who craves stability and assurance that every move the other makes is going to be a safe one. This will cause them unnecessary stress within the relationship. If one partner is very people-oriented, but with someone who needs their alone time, he or she may resent this anti-social behavior. In return, the other person may view him or her as a busybody or controlling. Some people simply need time to recharge. Provide your clients these guidelines based on their personality and teach them to make compromises.

Accepting differences and learning how to maneuver around each other naturally is the key to building a common ground. Remind your clients not every battle is worth fighting, and not every fight is meant to be won. Provide guidance to listen for what is not being said and have a positive attitude and how each of the partners can develop strong communication skills with these communication exercises for every DISC personality.


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Written by: Jessica N. Abraham

Jessica is passionate about “people” and helping them to evolve professionally. Her “I-style” personality trait has led her to 15+ years of service to public relations, social branding, and design strategy.