Myers-Briggs vs DISC

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably taken personality test after personality test trying to find one result that felt just right. You may have found yourself frustrated by the section marked “weaknesses,” feeling a little called-out, but you were likely excited as you skimmed through the “strengths” section-it sounded pretty good.

As a culture, we have become more interested in understanding ourselves. As a result, personality models are rapidly growing in popularity. Employers, therapists, family, friends-even strangers-are asking us for more information about our personality types. But how do we know which assessments are accurate and helpful? And how are we even supposed to use our results?

If you’ve pursued personality at all, you’re likely familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is a very commonly used personality model, especially in relation to peers and employers. DISC is another accurate, professional-oriented personality model, designed to help us understand how we work, think, and behave. While the two models are very different, they can both lead to a greater understanding of ourselves and others, which can ultimately lead to greater empathy, a drive for self-improvement, and more deeply-rooted self-confidence.

Overview

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most well-known personality assessments. Created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, based on the work of Carl Jung, MBTI has become especially popular in modern workplaces to help companies better understand their employees.

This model has four distinct traits representing the different ways people think and behave:

Introversion (I) & Extraversion (E)

Intuition (N) & Sensing (S)

Feeling (F) & Thinking (T)

Perception (P) & Judging (J)

DISC

DISC is a “four-factor” personality model, meaning it observes four primary behavioral traits across the population. The traits are:

  • Dominance (D)
  • Influence (I) 
  • Steadiness (S)
  • Conscientiousness (C)

A person has a primary trait and sometimes a secondary trait as well. DISC was developed in the early 1900’s by psychologist William Marston, the same man who also created Wonder Woman and the polygraph. It resembles other four-factor models that have been around since Hippocrates described the “four temperaments” 2,000 years ago.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Both Myers-Briggs and DISC are well-known, useful personality tools that make it easier for us to learn more about ourselves and others. Because people are infinitely complex and dynamic, MBTI and DISC each do well in some areas and fall short in others.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Strengths: MBTI provides insight into our own actions as well as those of others, which allows us to remain more empathetic and open-minded around other people. Helping us get along with those who would otherwise be much more difficult to interact with. By having a better understanding of ourselves and those around us, we’re much more likely to make decisions that sensitively account for personality differences.

Weaknesses: While many people have used and appreciated the model, it has been criticized for a few notable flaws: 

  1. Limited scientific validity and reliability: because it was developed through clinical observation, rather than controlled research, there’s no concrete data to back-up personality claims.
  2. Each personality trait is represented as a binary “either or,” rather than a normal distribution (i.e. a bell curve), which is how traits are actually spread across a population. This can lead a lot of people to find the results inaccurate for their personality. For example, if someone is outgoing, but also enjoys spending time alone, they’d likely feel they were somewhere in the middle of being an introvert or an extrovert. However, the MBTI model would type them as one or the other.
  3. There is evidence showing some of the trait differences are not in fact mutually exclusive. People might not be “thinkers” OR “feelers”; they can be both.

DISC

Strengths: Though four-factor models of personality, like DISC, emerged out of clinical observation, they have also been validated by scientific research. DISC is also easy to learn, which means people will have a much easier time applying it to different situations and won’t need to do much of their own research. The results are useful for both individual and relationship insights. In other words, results can offer more than just an overview of your personality.

Weaknesses: Although DISC is a useful tool for better understanding personality, there are a few areas in which it lacks:

  1. DISC hasn’t been studied as often as similar models, like the Big Five, and therefore has less controlled research to support it.
  2. The insights tend to focus on behavior, rather than deeper thought patterns. This makes it less applicable in more emotional situations, like counseling.

When should each be used?

Both MBTI and DISC are more behaviorally focused, which makes them great tools for predicting fit and understanding personal actions we might not consciously notice. They tend to be less-suitable for situations requiring a deeper, more emotional understanding, like counseling or relationship coaching.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The MBTI can be helpful for opening-up conversations about personality, creating a deeper understanding of one another, and bringing awareness to our behavioral differences. It is often used by employers to help gain a general understanding of their employees’ strengths and weaknesses.

DISC

DISC is also a useful tool for the professional world. Because it is accurate and easy to understand, DISC has become very popular among coaches, consultants, and trainers. It is most helpful in situations where utility, application, and interpersonal behavioral change are most important, like sales, marketing, leadership, and talent development. 

Connecting Through Personality

Though they are not perfect, personality models are an easy, effective way to learn more about yourself and others. When used correctly, as an overall guide to self-improvement, tools like MBTI and DISC can help you learn to communicate more empathetically, understand other perspectives, and overcome personal blind spots.



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