What is the DiSC Model of Behavior?

by Jennifer Miller on June 14, 2012

in Learning, Personal Effectiveness

Everything DiSC logo by Inscape Publishing

My Twitter Bio says I’m a DiSC® Mentor, which means that I use the DiSC model of behavior via coaching and workshop delivery to help people build more effective workplace relationships. Recently someone asked, “What’s a DiSC Mentor?” and it was one of those moments when I realized that I’d taken for granted that everyone knows what “DiSC” stands for. So here is a quick primer on the DiSC concept.

Where did the term DiSC come from?

The conceptual model has its roots with a social psychologist name William Moulton Marston, who first explored human behavior in his 1928 book Emotions of Normal People. Marston identified what he called four “primary emotions” and associated behavioral responses. When he wrote the book, Marston never used his ideas as a way to label individuals as a specific “type.” But he did believe that each person would project a greater intensity and frequency of the behaviors of one or two of the primary emotions.

What does the acronym DiSC stand for?

Over the years, additional research garnered a four-factor behavioral model which today we know as Dominance (D), Influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). Since Marston’s time, many instruments have been developed to measure these attributes, with one of the most highly researched  being the DiSC® line of self-assessments by Inscape Publishing Inc.

In a nutshell, here is an overview of the four DiSC dimensions:

Dominance: direct, strong-willed, and forceful

Influence: sociable, talkative, and lively

Steadiness: gentle, accommodating, and soft-hearted

Conscientiousness: private, analytical, and logical

It’s important to note that we have all four dimensions of behavior in our repertoire, but it’s likely that we have a preference for one or two of these dimensions.

Why use the DiSC model?

I describe the DiSC model of behavior as a language – one that we can all learn to speak so that we can describe differences in behavior in a nonjudgmental way. By using this linguistic means, we can avoid personal attacks and instead focus on the behaviors that are both helping and hindering our individual and team performance. As a professional with a degree in behavioral psychology, I’ve chosen to focus on the behaviors of interactions, rather than a person’s underlying personality. Personality is a key part of who we are, but it  remain largely unchanged. Therefore, by focusing on behaviors, we can identify concrete actions to take to improve our workplace interactions.

Isn’t DiSC just a way to label people?

Many people think that style-type assessments “pigeonhole” people. That’s true if you focus solely on the label – “you’re such a ‘D’, it’s driving me crazy!” However, if you focus on the describing behaviors of a high-D interaction – “when leaned forward and had an impatient look on your face, I felt rushed and didn’t complete my thought”, then you are using the DiSC language in a way the productively bridges differences in communication preferences.

My mission: become your DiSC mentor

When I first took the DiSC assessment many years ago, my world was opened up to a new way of describing human behavior. I’ve made it a mission to ensure that whenever I use this tool, I’m doing so in the most respectful and helpful way. If I can help you do so via this blog, then so much the better!

If you have any questions or comments about the DiSC, please add them in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you.


®DiSC is a registered trademark of Inscape Publishing, Inc. My consulting company SkillSource is an authorized distributor of Inscape products. To learn more about how to use the DiSC tool to improve team and managerial communications, click here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dora June 18, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thanks for sharing. You must have been reading my mind! I like this model. It seems very true. I look forward to hearing more about this at a later date.

Jennifer Miller June 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm


The DiSC concept has really helped me personally and professionally. Have you taken a DiSC profile before? I think you’d be interested in the results. If you *have* already taken it, I’m wondering what your DiSC map looks like?

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