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Identifying Behavioural Styles Through Email

Awareness of behavioural styles can be a real advantage in your goal achievement. And with virtual technologies being pivotal to the way many of us work, finding ways to recognise behavioural cues and signals will improve your interactions with others.

Behavioural styles can be identified in a number of ways. The most effective is in-person, through the words, tone and body language used. However, there are many other ways to identify a person’s behaviour styles, such as video calls, phone calls and written communications.

Let’s say before a meeting with a prospective client, you could predict their behaviours and communicate with them on a level that would positively improve your interaction, would this be of use?

One of the internationally recognised methods of identifying behavioural styles is William Moulton Marston’s DISC theory. The DISC theory is the underlying foundation of a number of popular psychometric assessments used in recruitment and talent development.


What is the DISC theory?

Originally published in 1928, the DISC theory provides a way to identify likely behaviours styles. Built on the concept that a person’s DISC profile can help to predict preferred communication styles, strengths, motivations and fears.

When we talk about behavioural styles, we are talking about two main components: speed/pace and people/tasks.

First, we’ll look at pace, some people are cautious and thorough, covering all their bases, making their list and checking it twice. While others like to accomplish as many things as possible and do so at record speed because time = money. Identifying this speed component is something to look for in an email. Does it appear rushed, incomplete or are there errors?

Regarding people/tasks, does it feel like the email is impersonal and only about the facts? Or is it lengthy and conversational? Does the email contain a lot of figures and supporting information? Another thing to consider is, does the email make you feel like you are in a conversation or being given a work directive?


So what can the DISC behavioural system tell us?

The DISC behavioural system describes behaviours in four main components.

D stands for Dominance, I refers to Influence, S represents Steadiness, and C is for Compliance.

An awareness of the four main profiles enables us to predict how a person will act in a certain situation. And applying this knowledge to a person's email helps us to identify the behavioural type of the sender.


  • This direct and to the point communicator may opt for a bullet-point approach, with possibly a dictatorial tone and not supported with many facts.

  • The email may appear to have been hastily written and not explain the person’s thoughts in full detail.

  • Efforts at being conversational in their email are likely to be minimal.

  • Typically lacking warm and fuzzy undertones, this email will stick to the point of the message and not contain much else.

  • This communicator is usually juggling multiple tasks at once, likely all at a rapid pace, and completing the email may take on more importance than the content itself.


  • This verbose email writer loves to talk, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in person, on the phone, through email or even via text. The fact is they love people and enjoy conversation; especially if they can dominate it.

  • People with Influence as a leading trait are storytellers, and they may easily go off on a tangent, losing track of what they began to talk about when their email began.

  • Their email is likely to be lengthy, even if not full of supporting facts. The tone will usually be warm, friendly and conversational.

  • Chances are, it will be written at a fast pace, just as if they were standing in front of you having an animated conversation.


  • This person goes with the flow. They are typically people-oriented and friendly and their main goal in life is not to rock the boat.

  • Their email will likely be conversational, but rarely confrontational or edgy.

  • They don’t want to offend or cause controversy so if the content of the email touches on anything that could be interpreted as potentially agitating, they will likely add a softening statement before and after to soften the email's tone.

  • The pace will be without any sudden changes and it’s safe to say, there is unlikely to be any typos.


  • These analysers like to think things through and then think about them again before they send the email.

  • They state their case in facts and figures. They love statistics and evidence.

  • They aren’t opposed to change, as long as it is not perceived as change for change's sake.

  • The person with Compliance as a leading working strength is most likely to use spell-check, although they probably don’t even need to due to their attention to detail.

  • Their emails may lack personality but will be full of information, perhaps more than is often needed.

  • There may not be much emotion in their emails, but they aren’t looking to make friends, they are looking to complete a task and do so as accurately as possible.

Each of us has various degrees of the four DISC behavioural styles. No one is entirely one behaviour without at least some level of another. However, with a little awareness and curiosity, it's relatively easy to figure out a person's behavioural style even if you have never met them or spoken with them.

Their emails can provide you with all the clues you need.


Kinetic PD is a Thomas International partner and resales the PPA DISC assessment, which is available in over 40 languages and can be completed online in under 10 minutes.


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