In his influential 1926 book, The Emotions of Normal People, DISC model founder William Marston theorized that heredity was a large factor in establishing an individual’s dominant personality style. He believed there are ways of thinking, reacting, and interacting that people are born with, and that remains constant over time. This innate part of a person’s personality is referred to as “the core.” Marston’s research indicated that throughout a person’s life, their core personality type typically remains stable. From this, modern personality consultants have come to describe “the core” as modes of normal thinking and behaving that come to individuals naturally and instinctively.
However, human behavior is complex. Taken at face value, theories of “the core” self seem to suggest that personality is fixed at birth, and dictates the primary response that a person will produce in all situations. A "D" personality will be dominant and direct, and an "I" personality will be outgoing and friendly, an "S" personality will be steady and reliable, and a "C" personality will be calculating and data-driven. Although this might often be true, we have to be careful to avoid over-generalizations.
Consider this: Do all people behave the same in the workplace as they do at home? The same with colleagues as they do with friends? The same in times of stress as in times of leisure?
While it is true that a person’s core does not typically change over time, a person’s behavior is not always the same in every situation. There are many ways in which natural behavioral impulses can change and adapt to meet the needs of different situations.
My core DISC personality style, for example, is high "C." As a high "C" at work, I don’t like to make decisions without thorough research. I‘m not very spontaneous, and I tend to be organized and a bit of a perfectionist. My conscientiousness renders me incapable of sending out an email without reading it over at least three times because the thought of making even the tiniest mistake makes me cringe. At home, though, I’m anything but a perfectionist. In fact, I can be a bit of a mess. At work my office is well-organized and my to-do list is always up-to-date, but at home, I don’t think twice about clutter or leaving things unfinished. At home, I’d much rather spend my time being social and relaxed. At home, I’m much more an "I" than a "C" in the DISC personality system.
“A person’s authentic nature is a series of shifting, variegated planes that establish themselves as he relates to different people; it is created by and appears within the framework of his interpersonal relationships.”
Philip K. Dick, from The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick 1972-1973
This kind of fluid behavior isn’t unusual. It’s also very possible to predict these changes in behavior using DISC personality tests. How? Simple: Take the same DISC personality test multiple times. Before each test, choose to focus your answers on one particular setting or situation, such as the workplace. Take the test once, and answer all of the questions as they apply to work. Take the DISC personality test a second time and answer the questions based on your home life. Take the DISC personality test as many times as you like, focusing each round on everything from your social life to your parenting style. There is a strong possibility that given different situations, the high point on your DISC graph will change.
Stress patterns are easy to recognize and don’t necessarily warrant taking another DISC assessment to identify. The second graph of every DISC profile is specifically tailored to identify behavior in situations of stress within the given environment.
Knowing how you behave in different social, personal, and professional settings can help you understand how you relate to others and guide you to become more successful, motivated, and focused. It’s all a matter of understanding the fluidity of personality and the importance of context.
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