Imagine that you hear the following message at the airport: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen! The 8:30 flight to London will be approximately one hour late. Thank you for your patience and understanding.’

Four people are sitting on the seats in front of you. The first, a man in a suit, nervously hisses upon hearing this news, begins tapping on his knees with his fingers, and keeps glancing at his watch. Next to him, a young woman grimacing, making it fairly obvious that patience is not one of her virtues. But in the next moment, she turns to the woman sitting next to her with a smile. The latter is not particularly bothered by recent developments, she still sits quietly and is reserved. The fourth person is already on his phone, calculating straight away which train he would be able to catch, given the delay. He sends his grandma a text immediately that he will be 2 hours 47 minutes late for lunch.

The four basic qualities of the DISC model are introversion, extroversion, and task- or relationship-orientation. This acronym stands for the four personality types it describes in the model: Dominant, Influencer, Steady and Compliant. Let’s take a look at the four individually.

Dominant – the impatient man (in a suit)

The dominant person is really confident and self-assured. They make decisions quickly and don’t like to have their time wasted. They expect good performance and quick results – and they tend not to be afraid to take risks to achieve that. People with a dominant personality can easily drive teams forward and won’t shy away from challenges. Their downfall can be their competitive spirit, which they can consider to be more important than the people they’re working with. They have a hot temper, and they’re usually not patient. Although usually described as ‘not easy people’, they appreciate a strong presence, courage and a solution-oriented attitude. With these approaches, it can be a lot easier to have a common understanding and for them to be more useful members of our team.

Influencer – the impatient one with a smile

They are eternal optimists, with a constant smile. They enjoy being the centre of attention, find it easy to make connections, and, because of their personality, they have an easy way of finding common ground with most. Their powers of persuasion are extraordinary. They’re very creative, always coming up with new and exciting ideas they usually try to implement right away. They’re good team players, but their enthusiasm is also their downfall. It can greatly help the team’s results and successes, but it can also be too much. With their explosive nature and impatience, they tend to be disorganised. They’re difficult to get on our side, and we need to make sure we use a positive attitude, while not boring them with too much detail. Let them speak and only interrupt if absolutely necessary.

Steady – the patient and reserved

These people are highly reliable, calm and kind. The expression ‘they wouldn’t hurt a fly’ describes them perfectly. Good team players, they definitely carry out the tasks set for them. They don’t like conflict and risk, and usually play things safe. Their level-headed and ‘slowly but surely’ attitude doesn’t always help them, however. As confidence is not usually in their nature, an overly dominant person can suppress them without much difficulty. They’re not good at expressing their feelings and tend to rather hide them – which they do quite well. If we want to gain their trust, we need to be patient and kind with them, clear and honest about our expectations, and we mustn’t be too aggressive.

Compliant – the calculating, practical one

These people are almost too punctual and precise. They will definitely be the first to arrive to a meeting. They do their tasks conscientiously and precisely, down to the last detail. They like to research everything, consider every possibility – making it an unwise decision to ask them things that require an immediate response. Their input, however, might be valuable even in these cases. They sometimes don’t quite know what to do with their own emotions, and so they might accidentally disregard the feelings of others. But don’t let that fool you, they’re no robots. When communicating with them, we must present our diplomatic sides, providing as much information and detail regarding the situation as possible, and, preferably, without as much emotion as we can.

A person doesn’t necessarily fit into one of these four categories, some can only be described by more than one. Even so, there’s usually one that dominates the others. And let’s not forget, we can all change through the course of our lives.