Happy Harry

by Bluewater Advisory

March 1, 2022

We often judge other’s actions based on how WE would intend those actions, if we were that person.

These words have been a game changer in our communication trainings and during coaching sessions with individuals. Understanding the power of this single sentence is often the difference between effectively working together vs. frustration, understanding one another vs. aggravation, creating friction vs. giving grace. I hear it all the time from individuals who are frustrated by the way a co-worker, boss or direct report speaks to them, interacts with them or directs them. So often, and many times unconsciously, we determine the “rightness” or “wrongness” of others’ communication and behaviors based on the way WE prefer to communicate and interact. We will often say the words, “everyone is different” but deep down, we are really judging others based on how we would behave or communicate in a particular situation. And that’s natural, especially if we do not have an understanding of HOW people are different from one another and the values those styles bring.  And without that understanding it can be difficult to tolerate those differences in communication styles, let alone embrace, celebrate and use them to their fullest value.

DISC gives us insight into not only our own communication styles, but perhaps even more importantly the communication styles of the others with whom we live, work and play. It allows us to step outside of ourselves and no longer judge someone’s communication or behaviors based upon how WE would mean it if we behaved that way, but instead to have context for what it means coming from that individual. It removes the often unconscious, yet nearly always unfair yardstick this way of thinking creates.

Let’s share an example of how one interaction can be perceived in different ways by each of our personality styles:

It’s likely a familiar scene: A man (let’s call him, Happy Harry) walks into a conference room on a Monday morning right as a meeting is about to start. He smiles his giant smile, making eye contact with everyone around the table and says, “Hey everybody! How was the weekend?!” He then proceeds to use the few minutes before the meeting starts to make small talk with nearly everyone around the table. Joking and laughter abounds (at least on his end) until the facilitator reigns him in for the meeting to begin.

High D (extroverted and task-oriented) – This style, driven by results, is likely to see Happy Harry as a distraction from the emails he is sending during the time prior to the meetings start. Our High D may think Happy Harry is nice enough but sees his “overly-friendly” style as a waste of time from the important work that needs to be done. Our high D may even find Happy Harry frustrating because they feel Harry is wasting time with “all the small talk”. Happy Harry will often sense tension, and work even harder to “small talk” our High D in his attempt to get them to like him. It’s pretty easy to see that this will likely not work, and the divide will only grow.

High I (extroverted and people-oriented) – This style, driven by people, is likely to LOVE Happy Harry because he or she is also a Happy Harry (or Harriett)! These styles are likely to get along extremely well, but may struggle to stay on task and get the work done that needs to be accomplished because they are so busy enjoying one another’s company. Our High I will likely see Harry from their point of view (as we so often do), a person who is trying to connect with others and create a good experience for those around them. Happy Harry will love our other Happy Harry but it is likely that many meetings will be overrun by these two.

High S (introverted and people-oriented) – This style, driven by loyalty and systematic pace, is likely to find Happy Harry nice enough but potentially a distraction from the work they are wanting (read: needing) to accomplish because of the time spent socializing. Our High S may sit and smile as Happy Harry shares another story about his weekend, but is secretly thinking about the emails that are piling up in his/her inbox and the two questions for which they need answers in order to accomplish their task, potentially avoiding engaging in conversation in the future to save time. Happy Harry is unlikely to notice our High S’s frustration (as our High S is so polite) but will notice if our High S doesn’t come around as often and begin to wonder why he or she doesn’t like them anymore.

High C (introverted and task-oriented) – This style, driven by process, procedures and rules, is likely to be overwhelmed by Happy Harry’s style. Our High C is likely to be frustrated by Happy Harry, often times leading to conversation avoidance (intentionally or subconsciously) with him, and as a workaround, sending long emails filled with details and questions to ensure he or she gets the answers they need without engaging in direct conversation. Happy Harry is likely to be frustrated by these long and detailed emails (details, after all, tend not to be Happy Harry’s “thing”) and will likely send back an email with less information that our High C would like or will walk over to our High C’s desk to discuss, increasing our High C’s attempt to distance themselves from Happy Harry.

It’s easy to see that as these different styles continue to interact without an understanding of what the other is looking for in their communication, frustrations and friction can occur. When we at Bluewater (through trainings and/or performance coaching) are able to help individuals see not only how their communication style looks to other people, but also what others are looking for in their communication, we can help individuals move past their own biases in communication and create more meaningful, thoughtful and effective interactions with one another. If you would like to learn more about communication styles, blind spots and how to avoid being your own version of Happy Harry (Results Rick, Loyal Lilly or Procedures Penny), reach out to me or anyone on the Bluewater team!

Lindsey Weigle,
Managing Partner