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Know Thyself: MBTI and DiSC

In my practice as an executive coach and consultant, I use both the MBTI' and the DiSC'. I am often asked, "Which one is better?"

The question reveals a common misunderstanding about psychological instruments. The fact is, there is no such thing as "the best" psychological instrument. As consultants who use psychological instruments our challenge is to choose the "appropriate" psychological instrument.

As long as a psychological instrument has been subjected to rigorous validity and reliability testing (the only type I will use in practice) it probably has an appropriate use.

The Oracle of Delphi, centuries ago, recommended "Know thyself." I would add, "Know others too!" Psychological instruments have been designed to measure almost any psychological or behavioral dimension you can imagine. In addition to the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and the DiSC Classic, here is a sample of other helpful instruments:

* Kirton Adaption/Innovation Inventory (creativity and problem solving styles)

* Change Style Indicator (change styles)

* Strength Deployment Indicator (conflict styles)

* Campbell Interest and Skill Survey (career choices)

* FIRO Element B (need for inclusion, control, and openness)

All of these instruments have valuable appropriate uses.

Let's go back to the comparison of the MBTI and the DiSC. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on the theory of Dr. Carl Jung. The DiSC (originally called the Personal Profile System') is based on the theory of Dr. William Marston. Both of these gentlemen developed their theories during the early 1900s.


Dr. Carl Jung, a psychiatrist, attempted to identify the basic personality traits that differentiate normal people. Jung described three bi-popular dimensions of personality in his work entitled "Psychological Types." He discussed extraversion versus introversion (an individual preference to engage in the outer world versus a preference to focus on the inner world).

Jung believed individuals prefer one of two "functions" for gathering data: sensing or intuiting. Sensors prefer to use the five senses to gather "real" data. Intuitors look beyond the five senses for patterns and meaning. Sensors tend to be present-oriented, while intuitors tend to be future-oriented.

Jung also believed individuals also prefer one of two "functions" for processing data and coming to conclusions: thinking or feeling. Thinkers prefer logic and objectivity, while feelings prefer personal values and subjectivity. Thinkers and feelers arrive at very different conclusions because of the criteria they use to evaluate information.

Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers, a mother-daughter team, worked to operationalize Jung's theory of three personality dimensions. Briggs and Myers also added a fourth dimension based on Jung's ideas. This fourth dimension considers an individual's preference for managing the "outer world."

An MBTI practicing (after training and passing a certification exam) can help an individuals and team become aware of their own preferences and the preferences of others. With additional training, an MBTI consultant can help an individual understand and manage his or her "dark side." The dark side of the personality, the least preferred of Jung's functions, comes out when the individual is tried, stressed, or under pressure. These are valuable insights for anybody who desires to be effective.


It is difficult to compare the DiSC to the MBTI because the instruments measure different things. While the MBTI measures personality types, the DiSC measures behaviors in various situations.

Dr. William Marston, a physiological psychologist, studied how an individual perceived him or herself in a situation, the resulting emotions of the perception, and the likely subsequent behavior. Marston's model has two critical dimensions:

- the situation is perceived as either favorable or unfavorable

- the individual perceives him or herself as more or less powerful than the situation

Marston tried to explain how people adapted to varying situations by understanding their emotional responses and subsequent behavior. Thus, the DiSC instrument helps people understand behavior (their own and others) in various situations.

The electronic version of the DiSC can be taken on-line without a coach or consultant. You can take an online version of the DiSC at my website.

About the Author
Dr. Mike Beitler is an organizational and individual effectiveness expert. His website offers many resources for consultants and managers, including an online version of the DiSC.

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