The Missing Piece

Earlier this year we conducted back-to-back DiSC sessions over five days for a single organization. While it was exhausting thanks to Zoom fatigue, it was also rewarding to see the proverbial light bulbs turning on above everyone’s head. In a breakout room, one participant even commented, “This is the missing piece I’ve been searching for!”

I have never come across a person who said communication is not important. In fact, whenever I have a conversation with someone about communication, the consensus is that it is foundational to working effectively with others. People seem to know this truth.

So then why are we so bad at it?


Because like the participant above said, we are missing something. Communication is more than simply the exchange of facts and information. While exchanging facts and information is important, it doesn’t necessarily build rapport or relationships. Communication which builds these requires trust.

Communication involves three components:
1. Verbal and non-verbal
2. Active or curious listening
3. Interpretation

Effective communication requires all three components working in unison for each individual engaging in the communication. Whereas I could go in depth about the first two, many people understand the complexities involved in verbal and non-verbal communication and listening.

DiSC is about the third component—the  missing piece.

We interpret words, body language, tone, speed of delivery, and various other verbal and non-verbal queues. Our past interpretations, past personal experiences, home culture, childhood culture, workplace culture, societal culture, personal worldview, and our personalities aid us in our interpretation of others. Basically, we interpret others through our own lens—as if they were us.

Have you ever heard or even verbalized these expressions?

  • “I wouldn’t have said it that way.”
  • “If it were me, I would have…”
  • “I just don’t understand why they would say that.”
  • “Don’t they realize…”
  • “I didn’t take it that way.”
  • “Here’s what I would do if I were you…”

One of my favorite quotes is by Edmund Wilson: “No two persons ever read the same book.” Everyone reads the same words, yes, but no one interprets or views those words through the same lens. Each person has a different understanding.

Whereas every human being is unique, we can bridge the interpretation gap by borrowing someone else’s lens for a short time. Enter DiSC. DiSC is a lens through which we can peek into someone else’s way of interpreting communication, albeit minimally as we are all complex. For example and generally speaking, people with the D style tend to be straight-forward verbal communicators. Those with the S style, however, could interpret this straight-forwardness as harsh and intimidating. Likewise, those with the C style tend to quietly think things through before they speak, which can be interpreted by those with the i style as uncaring or even stonewalling.

Interpreting communication through our own personal styles leads to miscommunication, frustration, anger, and hurt.

It’s easy to acknowledge others are not us. But it’s much harder to communicate as if that truth is actually true. Personality styles are different, and people with different styles communicate differently. Our job as communicators is accept those differences in non-judgmental ways.

How, you ask?

  • Know yourself. We cannot understand others until we understand ourselves.
  • Become educated in DiSC styles to learn to see through the lens’ of others.
  • Lean into discomfort.
  • Expand your emotional intelligence.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Get curious by asking open-ended questions.

DiSC cannot solve all communication errors, but it can help us bridge the gap by understanding how those different from us interpret the verbal and non-verbal layers of communication.

Thanks for reading,

DeAnne Negley

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