In my business coaching and advisory work I spend a lot of time communicating with people.


I also get to spend lots of time observing how people communicate with each other in a business context. I can assure you that the key to improving the way that we communicate with those around us is to improve our own understanding of what makes us “tick” as individuals. Fortunately there are a wide range of tools available that can assist in this process. Here are three examples – observant readers will note the interrelationships between the tools.



“Think/Feel/Know” (TFK) is a contextual tool that I’ve applied in my business coaching work as a Shirlaws Licencee. The TFK model enables people and groups or teams to experience a communication process that results in unity.


Communications can be categorised into three primary styles:

  • “Think” – based on data and processed in the “head”;
  • “Feel” – based on energy and processed in the “heart”; and
  • “Know” – based on intuition and processed in the “gut”.


Each individual has a different way of processing information. Although we can use all three styles, individuals have a primary and a secondary preference when communicating. TFK enables individuals to better understand how they prefer to process information (verbal, visual or written), how they prefer to communicate and how they prefer to learn. This simple and very effective tool can be applied quickly in a wide range of situations, with immediate benefits in my personal experience.


DISC is a behavioural assessment tool based on the theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston. The theory centres on four different personality traits: Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S) and Compliance (C) and was developed into a tool by industrial psychologist Walter Vernon Clarke.


Marston published his findings on human emotions in his 1928 book “Emotions of Normal People” in which he contended that people illustrate their emotions using four behavioural types.  He argued that these behavioural types came from people’s sense of self and their interaction with the environment.


Marston proposed two dimensions that influenced people’s emotional behaviour:

  1. Whether a person views his or her environment as favourable or unfavourable; and
  2. Whether a person perceives himself as having control or lack of control over his or her environment.


In summary, an individual exhibiting the trait of:

  • Dominance – perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment and perceives the environment as unfavourable;
  • Inducement – perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment and perceives the environment as favourable;
  • Submission – perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment and perceives the environment as favourable; or
  • Compliance – perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment and perceives the environment as unfavourable.


There are a number of current variants of the DISC tool available, with typical accompanying commentary recognising that:

  • All DiSC styles and priorities are equally valuable and that each individual is a blend of all four styles;
  • One’s work style is also influenced by other factors such as life experiences, education and maturity; and
  • Learning about others’ DiSC styles can help individuals better understand others’ priorities.



The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs from the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung in his 1921 work “Psychological Types”. Jung proposed a psychological typology based on the theories of cognitive functions that he developed through clinical observations.


The MBTI preferences indicate the differences in people based on the following:

  • How they focus their attention or get their energy (extraversion (E) or introversion (I));
  • How they perceive or take in information (sensing (S) or intuition (N));
  • How they prefer to make decisions (thinking (T) or feeling (F)); and
  • How they orient themselves to the external world (judgement (J) or perception (P)).


By using their preference in each of these areas, people develop what Jung and Myers called psychological type. This underlying personality pattern results from the dynamic interaction of their four preferences, in conjunction with environmental influences and their own individual tendencies. Sixteen different outcomes are possible, each identified by its own four-letter code, referred to by initial letters (N is used for iNtuition, since I is used for Introversion). People are likely to develop behaviours, skills, and attitudes based on their particular type. Each personality type has its own potential strengths as well as areas that offer opportunities for growth.


Susan Cain, a New York-based writer provides an in-depth analysis of how the “extraversion” versus “introversion” preference manifests itself in her 2012 book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. The following extract from Cain’s TED talk in 2012 illustrates the introversion preference:


Introversion is different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment. Introversion is more about, how do you respond to stimulation, including social stimulation. So extroverts really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”


As an aside, Cain’s central argument in her book is that the key to maximizing individual talents is for individuals to be put in the “right” zone of stimulation. Unfortunately (and in particular in the US where Susan hails from) Cain contends that workplaces, schools and other learning institutions are typically designed for extroverts and for extroverts’ need for stimulation, which places introverts at systematic disadvantage through over-stimulation. I highly recommend her thought-provoking work.


Many would contend that effective communication is the single most important factor in improving business performance. This is why I regularly say that’s it’s just as important in business to communicate the answer in the right way as it is to have the right answer…….


Has this article been helpful? Please comment below or send me an email. I am always excited to hear from people making it happen!

Peter Wilkinson

BE (Mech), MBA