As many couples find themselves quarantined together during the COVID-19 pandemic, new (and old) stressors are flaring up. Annoyances that seemed too small to address when you were away from each other most of the day may be festering now. And what was working in your partnership two weeks into a stay-at-home order may have fallen apart nine or ten weeks in.
Perhaps your C-style partner wants to dissect the latest statistics and virus news every day, and you’d rather unplug. Your i-style spouse has become depressed from so much time away from other people, and you can’t understand why she’s taking it so hard. You think your D-style spouse is demanding too much from the kids around schoolwork, but don’t want to start a conflict by sharing your opinion. Your S-style partner has taken on way too much extra work but would rather suffer in silence than listen to your suggestions about how to solve the problem.
Everyone’s situation has its own unique challenges, and people will react to these challenges in their own individual ways. Major variants include whether a couple has children, whether one or both people have lost their jobs, and whether they are still leaving home for work. But there are some patterns around how the different DiSC styles deal with stress (see DiSC personalities under stress for more), as well as how two people of the same or different styles tend to interface.
How DiSC can help with relationship stress
You’ve seen the power of DiSC assessments to transform relationships at work. Have you considered the way DiSC could inform your personal relationships, especially with your spouse or partner? We know many DiSC practitioners who use these tools to navigate their partnership at home.
DiSC is not a substitute for couples counseling, nor is it a predictor of compatibility. In fact, what DiSC teaches us is that everyone is capable of working well with people of every style.
In our Facebook group, we asked about people’s experience using DiSC with their significant others. Here are some responses:
- “He’s a strong D and I’m a strong S. I’ve learned not to waffle and just get to the point.”
- “As iD-styles, we can both be impulsive and direct, and now we catch when the other is doing it and can help hold each other accountable.”
- “We’re both D styles, but at home I lean to the i part of my Di style to keep things upbeat. I have to call my husband out when he claims he can’t help acting a certain way because he is a D-style.”
DiSC helps us understand our own and other people’s tendencies and how these manifest in professional or personal relationships. While recognizing that coworker relationships have different goals and stressors than intimate relationships, there are many ways in which DiSC can help you better understand your partner as well as your own reactions to conflict:
- Helps you gain awareness of yourself: How do I respond to conflict? What motivates me? What causes me stress? How do I tend to solve problems?
- Shows the traits of each personality type in a positive light.
- Provides insight into where your priorities and motivators differ from and align with your partner’s.
- Teaches you non-judgmental language with which to discuss these priorities.
- Encourages flex—moving beyond your default reactions.
- Examines how you respond to conflict and stress.
- Gives you a visual of where you fall on various scales versus where your partner does.
- Supplies concrete tips for working with the other person.
- Reveals potential roadblocks in your partnership.
- Highlights the potential benefits of your styles collaborating.
Using Comparison Reports
To use DiSC tools with your partner, a great place to start is the Everything DiSC Workplace profile with the Comparison Report (see Everything DiSC Comparison Reports explained: How do you compare to me?). Even though the assessment was created for business use, it’s very applicable to marriage. View a sample Workplace profile and a Comparison Report to judge for yourself. (These are also available in Spanish.) Since DiSC does not value one style over another, the report provides a way of addressing issues without judgement.
Take a look at this example from a DiSC Workplace Profile Comparison Report between an SC-style (You) and their partner, a Di-style:
The text reads: You are very Tactful. Di is somewhat Frank.
- Try to focus on the words being used rather than the tone, but at the same time, speak up if Di is being too forceful.
- Consider that Di may get frustrated if you’re beating around the bush.
- Remember that Di is very candid, which means that honest feedback is probably preferred over silence on an issue.
The Comparison Report can also be helpful when in areas where you and your partner are similar, like in this example of two people who are both very unstructured:
Text reads: You are very Unstructured. Di is very Unstructured.
- Since the two of you might leave too much last-minute work, set a series of deadlines to help avoid this.
- Before beginning, talk about who will be responsible for planning each part of the project so that nothing falls through the cracks.
- Because both of you probably enjoy starting new projects more than completing them, discuss how you will ensure that the final touches get put on the project.
DiSC styles during pandemic isolation
This situation varies greatly from person to person and from day to day. We haven’t faced something like this before. But we do know some things about DiSC personalities under stress. If any of this resonates with you or sounds like your partner, use this article as a starting point for discussion: “This is one way I’m struggling right now,” or “Are you experiencing this? Let’s talk about what might help.”
A few things that may be particularly difficult for D-styles during the pandemic:
- They are not in control. During this crisis, they are constantly confronted with how much is beyond their control, from global decisions to the smallest daily tasks like buying groceries.
- They can’t take action. D-styles want to go go go, but what most of us are being asked to do is stay home and be still. They want to lead, but that might not be what others need from them right now.
- Illness makes them feel vulnerable (and they hate feeling vulnerable). D-styles become frustrated when sidelined by illness (or even the threat of illness) and may lash out at spouses or caretakers.
- People are emotional. D-styles struggle when they feel others are being too emotional or “needy.” If their partners are used to burning off steam with friends but more of that emotional processing is now happening at home, they may become impatient.
To help your D-style partner: Be direct, but when you are challenging them, make sure they know you are not challenging their authority, but helping them see the bigger picture.
How i-styles may be struggling during the pandemic:
- Their social life is gone. Much of i-styles’ energy comes from being around other people, and video chats can’t provide the same feeling.
- Their days are too repetitive. The rut that many shelter-at-homers are feeling may be particularly stressful for i-styles, who crave momentum and novelty.
- They are distracted. The stress of going through a pandemic makes it harder for most people to concentrate, but i-styles may be extra prone to distraction and struggle to complete tasks, whether those tasks are for work or home.
- Not everyone wants their positivity and ideas. One of the great strengths of i-styles is their natural positive nature. Sharing this upbeat energy is a wonderful gift to many people during this crisis, but others may not react well to it, and that can hurt an i-style’s feelings.
To help your i-style partner: Listen to them—real deep, active listening. Find creative, short-term projects you two can collaborate on. Encourage friends to connect with them. Think of fun ways they can express themselves.
What’s stressing out S-styles during the pandemic? It could be:
- Nothing feels stable. So much about this crisis is incredibly precarious and uncertain: massive layoffs, school cancellation, ill family members, a carefully-planned year suddenly unmoored. Stability is important to S-styles, and they’re getting little of it.
- They’re being taken advantage of, or they’ve overcommitted. S-styles can struggle with saying no, so they often find themselves with extra work dropped on them. During shelter-at-home with their families, they may be overburdened both from the office and with an unbalanced amount of household chores (plus all those volunteer tasks they took on…).
- It’s harder to escape conflict. Conflict makes S-styles uncomfortable, and they will often just go along with something or remove themselves from the situation rather than argue their side. Now they can’t get away. Navigating their marriage or partnership through pandemic stress without making their voice heard doesn’t feel good either, but it may be the path they’re choosing.
- They don’t know how to ask for help. S-styles worry about inconveniencing others or being a burden. Even if S-styles are really struggling with the stress of the pandemic, they are probably keeping it to themselves. Even so, they can build up resentment toward their partners for not noticing the difficulties they are going through.
To help your S-style partner: Encourage them to speak up. Remember that their silence may not mean agreement. Assure them that conflict can be productive and healthy. Show your love by doing more housework, especially if your partner has extra work from the office.
C-styles may be struggling during the pandemic for these reasons:
- There’s so much ambiguity. C-styles like clear goals, data they can assess, and situations that follow logically from one step to the next. With the coronavirus pandemic, there’s so much “wait and see” as far as when shelter-in-place orders will be lifted, when testing will be widespread, and how the virus will affect their family.
- It’s harder to ask for help in isolation. C-styles struggle with asking for help anyway, worried that it makes them look less competent, but when they are isolated from their usual social and professional networks, reaching out will feel like even more of an effort.
- They don’t miss the same things other people seem to miss. Social media is full of people talking about how much they miss crowds and social situations, and Cs might feel disconnected from this part of the pandemic experience.
- There’s no clear way to be “good at” this. C-styles get a lot of satisfaction from excelling, being competent, gaining expertise. What this means during a pandemic can be unclear. If C-styles are diverting this energy into pushing new projects at work or at home, they may feel frustrated at coworkers or family members who are more emotional and less able to focus.
How to help your C-style partner: C-styles may need your help but have a hard time asking you for it. Ask if they need help, but try to do it in a way that respects their competence. Focus on the facts—what is known about your situation—and problem solve together.
Using DiSC to focus your conversations
DiSC can give you individualized, actionable tips for getting through this period of social distancing with your partner. It can bring focus and direction to your conversations, rather than finding yourselves having the same argument you’ve had a hundred times already, or orbiting each other in silent stand-off.
In addition to illuminating your personal tendencies, your DiSC profile teaches you how to flex into styles that don’t come as naturally to you. The behaviors and best practices of each style are available to everyone, it just takes more energy to flex into some of them.
If you’ve used DiSC as a resource in your relationship during shelter-in-place, share your experience in the comments below or in our Facebook group. Think about how the strengths of your style are helping you and your family get through this crisis, and take a moment to appreciate yourself. Now do the same for your partner or spouse. Now take a few deep breaths, a nice long walk, or look at some nature.
- Everything DiSC Workplace® Profile, discprofile.com
- Everything DiSC® Comparison Reports, discprofiles.com
- Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict Profile, discprofile.com
- DiSC personalities under stress, discprofiles.com
- DiSC styles and marriage, discprofiles.com
- Using DiSC in marriage and couple retreats, discprofiles.com
- Is your partner up at 3 a.m.? Coronavirus stress is real. Here’s how to help., The Washington Post