Motivation: Treat Them the Way They Want to Be Treated

I have been conducting primary research collection interviews for over 25 years. I am most fascinated by what motivates people to share, and how to figure this out quickly, especially during a telephone conversation where you don’t have the benefit of body language. Contrary to what I have been taught: “Do not treat others like you want to be treated.” Treat them the way THEY want to be treated. Give or ask for information in a way that they are comfortable hearing the message.

For years, I relied mostly on the Myers Briggs personality types to gauge how people were motivated. However, I think that DiSC Behavioral Styles as developed by Dr. William Marston, are a better indicator of how you should best communicate with people in conversation. There are 4 personality types: Dominant (driver), Influencer (socializer), Steady (relater) Compliant (thinker). The focus of DISC is to understand the behavior, fear and motivation people exhibit in communication.

DISC Styles

In intelligence, we think about Johari’s Window as a model for knowledge acquisition as we gather data by talking to individuals. We consider what we do and don’t know as we seek to fill the gaps of our knowledge: what we know with certainty; what knowledge we have that needs to be verified; what we don’t know that will be hard to find; and what is simply the vast unknown.

I have applied this model to classifying those we talk to in the collection process. It’s helpful to be aware of their pre-disposition towards sharing versus what they know.

1. Egocentric: They are “know it alls,” who really don’t know that much, but have this need to let us know they are an expert and are always right. These are dangerous sources, and often want to linger on the telephone conversation. I guess they aren’t listened to enough or respected by their co-workers.

2. Deeply Knowledgeable: They are experts with deep knowledge about our research topic. They don’t have the need to be “right” like Egocentrics. They just know and pull information from their brain. They recognize the value of what they know, so might be reluctant to share when you probe deeply, especially if they feel you are querying about proprietary, sensitive information. People in the legal field and finance are often this way.

3. Intellectual: They are knowledgeable, but unlike the Deeply Knowledgeable, they don’t recognize the value of what they know and will share freely. They may suffer from low self esteem, which motivates sharing or they may not realize the value of they know, since this is what they do and they assume everyone knows what they know. Technical and scientific people often fall into this category, as they are highly focused in what they know and love to talk about it. They often have passion for what they do, and are happy to talk with anyone who will listen. They are often proud of their knowledge and might seek recognition from you during the conversation. But beware, you better know something about their expertise and their professional vocabulary or they will not open up much. Although not thought of as Intellectual, people in sales and marketing tend to be chatty, and often know a lot about products, how they’re marketed and sold, and about future products.

4. Helper: Many in America want to help, even if they don’t know. Helpers will try to answer your questions, but their knowledge is shallow, and what they share is incomplete and inaccurate. When you probe more deeply, you find this out. I tend to have shorter conversations with Helpers, but I do leave them feeling good about themselves. If I sense they are open, I will ask if they can refer me to a more knowledgeable source, especially when they admit, “I really don’t know,” when I probe more deeply. They sometimes give great referrals since they feel guilty that they couldn’t have helped more. They can be anywhere in the company.

Armed with elicitation skills–and an awareness of the person’s DiSC behavior and their pre-disposition towards sharing versus what they know– is very empowering for you whether interviewing people at trade shows, through cold calls or win loss interviews.

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2 Responses

  1. You refer and link to DiSC but your image is from a different DISC profile. The morning for Everything DiSC and DiSC Classic created an even distribution of people across styles. It is confusing because DISC is a model and many instruments built upon it use the word in their name.

  2. I agree with you that DISC is probably better than MBTI – especially when done remotely. DISC is essentially very similar to the Merril-Reid Social Style matrix that I’ve been using since the mid-1990s. This was devised in 1981 – and is almost the same as DISC. (I think the only differences are a few of the names – e.g. Thinker is “Analyst” in the Merrill-Reid model. This was extended anyway by a husband and wife team (See: Bolton & Bolton, 1984).

    I now use NLP principles – of which these are all essentially a subset. NLP also teaches a more holistic approach overall that helps explain the exceptions. (The way I was taught it – relating to DISC is to imagine the typical “Driver” who in the office is assertive – even aggressive. He (normally a He in this context) comes home and all he wants is to put his feet up, have a whisky and relax. He has stopped being a Driver and may have moved into another box. DISC, etc. can explain this when you look at the impact of stress on individuals – where they move from one box to another. The fact is that work, many people are more stressed than at home and so move into a different box.

    This means that when you put them in a box, you do so because of how they are reacting to you. An NLP presupposition is that you need to build rapport with people you are working with – and that you can then influence them. It is how politicians work – and you can influence people using specific language patterns – which then helps you get what you want from them.

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