How to influence people – and avoid headaches

Bashing noggins isn't the best way to deliver a message. Become a better business operator by understanding why your staff behave the way they do

She was almost frantic as she beat my head with a textbook and repeated over and over, “Would you ever stop talking, Dave Fuller?!”

Those were the days when teachers could do such things and Grade 11 students would generally accept them and the semi-concussions that went along with the beatings.

My classmates laughed at my behaviour, which fed into my image as class clown.

I was sent out of the room to give everybody a break. I learned that day, as if I didn’t know already, that my behaviour could affect other people. It drove some people crazy and others were affected in a more positive manner.

But why is it that some people can’t deal with our behaviour?

I like people and didn’t really like the task at hand (math) while others in the classroom loved doing the school work and weren’t too bothered about participating in the fun with the other classmates.

I recently gave a presentation to a group of executives on the DISC behavioural assessment. I use this tool with all my coaching clients because it helps me understand how they typically react to the world around them. It gives them important feedback on how others see them. And it helps them to understand how they interact in groups, communicate and make decisions. It helps me see what motivates them and what kind of scenarios do the opposite.

As a business coach, I want to ensure they get the most out of our time together and that they can benefit in their relationships at work and at home by relating and communicating with others more effectively.

DISC gives us a framework to evaluate and understand ourselves and others. We all have models in our head that provide insight into how others might behave and how we need to react to them. Much of this is based on our upbringing and our experiences – it’s really subjective.

I knew how to relate to my grandfather because I observed how my grandmother related to him. I engaged my grandmother in a different fashion because her reaction to people was different from my grandfather’s.

But how can we communicate better with the people around us on a daily basis?

By understanding how different types of people will react and wish to be communicated with we can improve our chances of success in life and business.

Many people fear facing that customer, client or boss who is abrupt and cuts to the point. But have we ever thought that we might get on better with them if we gave them what they want? Maybe we should engage in a conversation that immediately gets to the tasks at hand.

And what about the person who is flamboyant and loves people? Chances are they want us to talk about people, not tasks. They would like you to ask about their family, to develop a relationship before trying to sell them something.

DISC identifies four basic types of people:

  • Dominant: These are your typical A-type personalities. They want you to get to the point, are competitive, demanding and tough willed.
  • Influencers: These people love talking and being social, and they’re persuasive.
  • Steady: These people are calm, careful, patient and good listeners.
  • Conscientious: They’re logical and disciplined – they might remind you of an accountant.

Most people have one main trait and then other lesser traits that are still natural to them.

Straying from our natural behavioural style, due to the circumstances of work or life, can cause us stress. If we’re naturally an S type, caring for others, and circumstances require that we become demanding and direct, this takes another type of energy that over time can take a toll on us.

When I ran a retail business, we had all our employees and new hires do the DISC assessment. The results were amazing. For the first time, I understood clearly why I drove some of my staff loopy. I also realized quickly that I had some staff doing the wrong jobs.

We used the DISC assessments to figure out who were task orientated and who were people orientated and we changed their roles accordingly. The staff was happier, and I had a better understanding of how to approach and communicate with each of them so everyone was achieving much better results.

In hindsight, 30 years later, my teacher was probably a C-type personality and me being a high I-type must have caused her considerable frustration.

If she understood people better, she might have had a better strategy for dealing with me.

If I could have related better to her, my head would have hurt less.

David Fuller, MBA, is a certified professional business coach and author who helps business leaders ensure that their companies are successful. David is author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy.

influencing people


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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