James Dykstra

The Beauty of Behavior: Know More and Struggle Less


Most of us have heard of these types of instruments before: Myers-Briggs (MBTI), Social Styles, DISC, Colors, etc. There are many of these type tools available. And most of us have taken at least one of these over the years –perhaps as a part of a college course, or in our jobs at work.

Usually our response is something like, “yea, that’s pretty much like me” and then we leave the experience thinking, "That was nice to know, but so what? What do I DO with that knowledge?"

Like anything else in our lives, if we want to get better at something, we have to practice. I play golf for fun. I’ll never be a great golfer, because I don’t have the time it would take (and patience) to be really good. But I do enjoy going out with my buddies and playing several times during the year. And I pick up a tip here and there, and try it out. I have even opted for a private lesson from time to time.

And yes, I am a better golfer today than I was a few years back. But it’s not my passion. I have a good friend who took up golf in her mid fifties. She is passionate about the game, and invests a lot of time and energy into it. And she is becoming an exceptional golfer.

I am however passionate about behavioral styles. I have found them to be my road map for dealing with people in almost every situation, even on the golf course!

Over the years, I have studied and learned various models of behavior, personality and so on. One of the things I find fascinating is the more I learn, the easier it is to navigate relationships, sales situations, conflict and overall communication.

What if you could find a way to understand what motivates a person, what their main goals, fears and blind spots are? Wouldn’t that be helpful in dealing with them both personally and professionally? Zig Ziglar (and others) said “you can get anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want”.

As a leader and manager, I have found this to be true. By understanding behavior I can create a win-win situation in most instances. Are you thinking to yourself, "Isn’t that manipulation?" The often-used definition of manipulation is the following: “to control or influence someone or something cleverly and unscrupulously, especially to one's own advantage.”

When we are practicing people-reading and doing as Zig Ziglar suggests, we are not manipulating. We are helping others get what they want, which in turn helps us get the outcome we desire. The key is in being sincere and ethical and wanting the best for both parties involved. Isn’t that what leadership and influence is all about? Isn’t that what good negotiators strive to do?

What I have found is that behavior is highly predictable. Let me give you a quick overview of one of the most popular models out there, the DISC model. It has been used by over 40 million people and is available in numerous languages. Here are the four quadrants of behavior:

Dominance Characteristics: Fast-paced, quick to make decisions, intense, bottom-line orientation. Key Goal: Results, accomplishment. Key Fear: Being taken advantage of, losing control. Blind Spot: Insensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.

Influence Characteristics: Fast-paced, communicative, likes people and relationships. Key Goal: Being able to influence others, being competent, looking good. Key Fear: Losing their influence, social rejection. Blind Spot: Disorganized, lack of follow through.

Steadiness Characteristics: Slower paced, team player, loyal, good listener, kind, sensitive. Key Goal: Acceptance, appreciation, stability. Key Fear: Loss of stability, sudden change. Blind Spot: Putting their own needs last, overly possessive.

Conscientiousness Characteristics: Slower paced, deliberate, methodical, analytical, high standards. Key Goal: Accuracy, quality. Key Fear: Criticism of their work. Blind Spot: Overly critical of self and others.

If I just learn these things and start doing some basic people reading, I can start to observe behavior and practice adapting my style to meet the needs of others. Once you start to ask yourself, what am I seeing right now, you can start to unlock the pieces to the behavioral puzzle. If you are picking up a lot of fear about an upcoming change, you may be observing some “Steadiness” or “S” behavior. Stop and figure out how to be a better listener to their concerns, slow down and offer support and acceptance for their feelings. If they feel listened to and appreciated, you can work through the anxiety and help them adjust to the change. It really can be that simple.

The problem is that most of us stay stuck in our own preferred behavior, and expect everyone else to respond as we do. This only leads to miscommunication, conflict and disappointment.

Behavior is really pretty predictable, and with a little knowledge and practice, we can become students of behavior and get what we want by helping others get what they want. What a concept!