Why? What? How? and Who?


Effective communication.  It’s a key to success not only in business but just about every area of our lives.   Successful sports teams thrive when coaches and players understand each other.  Families that are able to talk through life’s challenges prevail in the face of adversity.  Public leaders, whether they are local or  national are more likely to excel when they are able to connect with their constituents, be it a one on one conversations or addressing large groups.  Never underestimate the value of good communication.

Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People always said that communication is the most important skill in life.   It was the entire message of habit  # 5 on his now legendary list.


“Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”  

– Dr. Stephen Covey


Sounds simple enough, but what does that mean?    Covey observed that most people do not really listen with the “intent to understand”, they listen with the “intent to reply”.   Have you ever been in a conversation and you find yourself chomping at the bit to reply while the person is still talking?  At that point you aren’t even listening so how can you ever understand?

Worse yet, when you do try to communicate with anyone who doesn’t have a similar personality style to yours, you often struggle to get your point across.  The person you’re talking to may even get downright irritated with your style of speaking.  Have you ever experienced this?

What’s at play here?  The simple answer is we are all different, but we do all typically fit into one of four behavioral DISC styles  D (Decisive) I (Influencer) S (Steady)  C (Careful)  and depending on the style you are going to be either more ”outgoing or reserved” and more “task oriented or people oriented”.  And how each style communicates most effectively varies pretty significantly.

Below is a simple quadrant that illustrates the 4 styles along with a few words that describe that personality style.


Remember Covey said “Seek first to understand” meaning shut up and listen so when you do start talking you are replying in a way that the person you’re talking to is more likely to respond well to.

For example:  A “D” talking tough and demanding to someone who is very calm and careful “S” is not going to go well.   And, if a “C” shares a detailed plan with an “I” without clearly documenting the plan, don’t be surprised when the plan falls apart.   When it comes to communicating, you will have the best results when you present information in a way that fits the style of the person you talking to.

But all this seeking to understand stuff takes time and who has time?   More and more we are working in world of short texts, tweets, quick emails, and short conversations.   Everyone’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.    Not sure anyone is really excited about that but it is what it is and we still need to communicate effectively.


Is there a quicker way to discern the DISC Styles? 

It turns out there is!   Each of the 4 styles tends to favor different types of questions.  See below.



D-Styles ask What?         What’s the bottom line?

                                              What’s in it for me?

I-Styles ask Who?            Who’s going to be at the event?

                                              Who else is using this product?

S-Styles ask How?            How are we going to do this?

                                              How does this impact our business?

C-Styles ask Why?           Why does it work this way?

                                              Why is that step required?


The next time you’re trying to discern the DISC Style of someone pay attention to the types of questions they ask.   This can be particularly beneficial when your communication is bouncing back and forth via text or any messaging app you may be using in your company.   Once you see a pattern with the type of questions they ask, there is a pretty good chance you will be able to uncover their primary DISC style as well.   Then start intentionally replying to them in the way their style best likes to communicate.

What do you think?  Do you think you can use this?   In looking at the two diagrams above do you have a pretty good idea what your DISC Style is?  Have you ever taken a DISC assessment or another behavioral assessment?   

Though the modes of communication continue to evolve, the need for effective communication will always be there and the better communicators will be more successful. Communication truly is the most important skill in life! As always we value your comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach