Sympathy, Not Solutions - An Empathetic Primer for D Styles
There are few things more rewarding for a Dominant (D) style than figuring out some of the world's toughest challenges. They're often the go-to person when decisions need to be made and problems solved. They're always strategizing and looking at the big picture, preparing to forge ahead, beyond boundaries and barriers.
Over time, putting out "daily fires" can become very transactional and impersonal. Another day, another dollar, right? For the D style, it's about facts, not feelings. Think of the old western movies where the lone cowboy shows up on his horse in the nick of time, liberates the town from some band of scoundrels, and at the end casually rides off into the sunset, tipping his hat and proclaiming, "Just doin' my job, ma'am." Then he's off to save the next town.
But what happens when the D style meets a challenge that doesn't wish to be solved?
If you're a D style reading this right now, you may be thinking, "Wait, what? Who doesn't want their problem to be solved?" Well, lots of people, at least not right away. The problem that you clearly see may not be the real issue the other person is struggling with at that exact moment. Thus, problem-solving isn't the best solution for the other person.
Solving the problem isn't always the best first option when dealing with human emotion.
There's a short video developed by Jason Headley (writer, director, and actor) titled "It's not about the nail" that beautifully conveys this concept visually and intellectually. So as not to spoil the experience for those who have yet to view it, consider watching it as a crash course on empathy. It features a man trying to fix a seemingly obvious problem and a woman who only wants to be heard. It may help shift the D style's view of an individual with a solvable problem to a brief but highly impactful moment of empathy with a human being needing connection. Sympathy (empathy in this case) not solutions. It's intended to be a quick mantra to help remember the concept.
Are you a D style currently wondering if you're capable of such deep emotional connections? Fear not! A body of research suggests empathy training can be effective in helping increase one's emotional intelligence. Thus, all that is required of anyone is to simply learn and put that learning into practice.
D styles are a behavioral minority in a world full of I, S, and C styles. Here are some tips on how to show empathy when working with other DISC styles:
Showing Empathy to I Styles
I styles love to talk and are likely to freely tell you how they're feeling regardless of your direct or subtle approach to connect. You may need to plan some extra time and a comfortable space to sit and listen to them. Let them know you've been noticing some changes in their behavior and are concerned about how they are coping with the specific challenges they are facing. I styles fear rejection and disapproval, so they may avoid being direct until they feel it's safe to share anything that may portray their weaknesses. Ask them specific questions to keep them focused and responding to your concerns.
Showing Empathy to S Styles
Connecting with an S style requires building a pattern of trust over time as they fear the loss of security in relationships and prefer to avoid conflict. Addressing behavioral concerns with an S type without prior notice and in a direct and inquisitive manner may be perceived as aggressive. This can create a sense of fear that leaves them unwilling to communicate on a personal level. They would likely appreciate the support and assistance you have to offer, but trust must come first.
Showing Empathy to C Styles
While C styles are like D styles in their focus on tasks versus people, there are some considerations to connect with C types effectively. Generally speaking, C styles are thoughtful, creative thinkers and very articulate and detail-oriented when describing just about anything they are interested in. However, they fear criticism and change. Thus, they are less likely to share any perceived weaknesses that could compromise their comfort zone. Reassure them your inquiry about any behavioral concerns are not to direct change but to help them maintain their ability to stay in control as they navigate through challenging situations.
Whether you're riding off into the sunset, heading towards the next burning town, or on the receiving end of a crisis at home or in the workplace, D styles can show empathy while building trust and meaningful connections with differing behavioral types. Remember, "Empathy first, not solutions."