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Understanding personality and behaviour to improve communication and reduce conflict

Posted on 8/10/2020 by Jo Hodge

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Guest post: Yasmina Hedhli  

A 2020 CIPD report (published before lockdown) found that 35% of employees have experienced conflict at work. One of the “less obvious sources” of conflict was stated as “differences in personality style or working”. The pressures of adapting to new ways of interacting and operating have increased the potential for miscommunication, conflict and frayed relationships. 


It goes without saying that we don’t always like the people we work with or the way they work. What seems perfectly natural to one person can be infuriating to the next. One team member’s attention to detail will be highly valued by some but frustrating to others who just want to “get to the point”. Another person’s idea of honesty and directness will be seen as rude and blunt to the next. While you can’t change your colleagues; developing an understanding of your own behaviours and preferences, including how you relate to others, can improve your working relationships.


DISC is a popular tool that’s used to understand behaviour and personality traits. It does this by looking at four different behaviour styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness. Each style has its own strengths, potential weaknesses, motivations and fears. Here are some of the key traits of each.


You know those people with the big ideas, who are direct, competitive and get straight to the point? They are high in the D or Dominance style. They’re motivated by new challenges and freedom. When communicating with them, don’t give lots of detail; get to the point. If there is a problem, focus on the solution.


Your colleague who is outgoing, friendly with everyone and always up for a good chat; they’re high in the I or Influence style. These people love working with others and are super enthusiastic, always bringing lots of optimism. Being liked is important to them and they are motivated by approval and recognition.


High in the S or Steadiness style is the patient, accommodating team player. Preferring the status quo, change is challenging for people with this style so be sure to implement any changes gradually, in a way that feels safe. They are motivated by security and recognition for their loyalty.


Your detail-oriented colleagues are high in the C or Conscientiousness style. Concerned with correctness and accuracy, they are great at dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. They are motivated by high standards of professionalism, clear expectations, and autonomy.


Instead of fitting neatly into one of these boxes, we each have a blend of different styles, with one or more that are pronounced. DISC goes much deeper into your own unique personality blend; detailing your real self, your ‘mask’ (the version of you that you show to the world) and who you become under pressure. As well as focusing on you, DISC explains your compatibility with the different styles and how to enhance communication with each. If you can speak to your colleagues in their own language based on their behaviour style (getting to the point, sharing your approval, making them feel secure, giving clear instructions etc), you will be far more impactful and likely to have a positive interaction.


Greater self-awareness and understanding of others’ preferences will not stop conflicts arising but it can help you understand how you respond to pressure, your own motivations and how to work with other personalities. It’ll also help you understand colleagues' motivations and preferred ways of working. At a time of increasing remoteness, effective communication and working in harmony are more important than ever.


Find out more about DISC at


Yasmina Hedhli is a coach, speaker and facilitator with a background as a leader in the not for profit sector. She specialises in confidence, self-belief and personal empowerment and is an advocate for equity and inclusion. Find out more and get in touch with Yasmina at