Myers & Briggs vs. DISC Mental Models: A Detailed Comparison
This comparison is fairly complex, so to give you some options, I’ll present it in 3 sections:
- Executive Summary (the “headlines”)
- Supporting Data (for the detail-oriented).
Feel free to skip to the part that you’re most interested in!
Below we’ll take a look at the correlation between the Myers & Briggs (M&B) personality “type” assessment and the DISC “style” assessment and what they yield in understanding “who we are” and predicting behavior. I’ll assume you know the basics of the M&B mental model and its inventory of 16 four-letter type codes.
In order to appreciate this comparison, some familiarity with the DISC mental model is useful but not necessary. I’ll also explain the combined DISC-M&B diagram above (DISC notation using colors and M&B in white) and the “Yellow Dot” as we go. The combination of the Dot and its location on this diagram are important indicators in DISC.
Why Compare the Myers & Briggs and DISC Models?
First, I want to show how these two popular models intersect, what can be learned from where they correlate, and where they diverge. And, when one or the other is more appropriate.
Second, I want to address the claim that DISC is considerably easier to learn and use than M&B. DISC does have the easy-to-understand and memorable framework diagram above that is very informative. But, DISC lacks the breadth of assessment of the more robust M&B model, which does require more knowledge to master, so it’s a somewhat unfair comparison.
(Note: In a recent Truity post, I suggested a Myers & Briggs framework diagram that will make M&B easier to teach, learn and apply. Check it out here.)
Summary and Conclusions on Comparing Myers & Briggs vs. DISC Models
On the breadth issue, M&B covers these four familiar cognitive function pairs:
- E/I (Extravert vs Introvert)
- S/N (Sensate/iNtuitive) • T/F (Thinker vs Feeler)
- J/P (Judger vs Perceiver).
And as you’ll see, the DISC model only addresses the first and third pairings of E/I and T/F. Below, I’ll be more specific as to this intersection and its impact and what you can and can’t discover about yourself or others using DISC’s narrower scope.
To highlight the “narrower scope” below are some questions that DISC apparently cannot answer based on not accommodating the S/N and J/P function pairs and their empowering and predictive insights (aka “who we are”).
Sensate/iNtuitive Preferences – Here’s what DISC can't tell you. Is someone more likely to be …
- Gathering data using their five senses or their intuition, or sixth “gut” sense?
- Detailed or big-picture oriented?
- Status quo (as is) or possibilities (to be) oriented?
- Observant or imaginative/creative?
- Here-and-now (in the moment) or future focused (in their head a lot)?
- Average-to-good or outstanding communicators?
Judger/Perceiver Preferences – Here’s what DISC can't tell you. Is someone more likely to be …
- Structured/organized or flexible/adaptable in their approach?
- More focused on results or the process?
- Looking for control or freedom?
- Decisive or exploratory when making decisions?
- Deliberate or spontaneous?
- Punctual or often late?
Conclusions: The Choice Between Them is Yours
- DISC and M&B models are both viable strengths assessments
- DISC has a narrower scope than M&B, and is more focused on behavior
- M&B provides a broader scope that includes both behavior and “who we are”
- DISC is easier to learn and use, based on its narrower scope and its use of numerous visual tools, including the diagram above
- Let your need for breadth, depth and ease-of-use be your guide in choosing between them
- Lowercase letters in M&B notation can be used to indicate you or others can easily show/display both a preference and its opposite (e.g., ENtJ, IsFP, …)
- The author suggests M&B’s “deep dive” is best for yourself, your family and your close associates, beyond that, either DISC or M&B are proven assessments
I hope this clarifies the DISC-M&B connection! If you have the patience and the interest, below are the details of this analysis that led to these conclusions, along with some insightful quotes from Molly Owens of Truity.
Discovering the Connection Between the Two Assessments My first “aha moment” as to the connection between DISC and M&B—and the M&B breadth advantage—came at a DISC training event I recently attended. I have deep experience with the M&B model but not as much with the DISC model. At that event, the facilitators broke the audience into four groups according to the “styles” (types) the participants had just discovered from their DISC test results:
- Dominance (D)
- Influence (I)
- Stability (S)
- Conscientiousness (C).
Having “fast typed” for decades, it’s common for me to look for M&B types and preferences in real time. So, as I wandered into the four separate groups of 15-20 members each and listened to their “authentic” interactions, a few things became clear to me.
At the highest and simplest levels, it was obvious and quickly observable that D’s and I’s were all Extraverts, and S’s and C’s were all Introverts. At the next level, all or most of the people in the Dominance (D) group were obviously Extraverted Thinkers (ET’s). All or most in the Influence (I) group were obviously Extraverted Feelers (EF’s). In the Stability (S) group … Introverted Feelers (IF’s). Lastly, in the Conscientiousness (C) group … Introverted Thinkers (IT’s). I show this simple, initial correlation in the diagram above.
When I shared my observations with Molly Owens at Truity, she provided these supporting insights,
“Our DISC assessment (and DISC assessments in general) are built around the intersection of two traits, something usually called ‘Surgency’ which is similar to, but not exactly Extraversion, and a trait usually called Agreeableness which is analogous to T/F in personality typing. So, there is definitely a lot of theoretical overlap between DISC styles and the E/I and T/F preferences.”
Molly also said, “The E/I and T/F preferences are the most relevant and biggest drivers to social behavior so it does make sense to pull out these two into a separate assessment like DISC looking at behavior and it's naturally going to cover less of what makes a person ‘who they are’ as with Myers & Briggs.”
Understanding the 12 DISC Style Profiles
Before we continue, there are two important concepts to understand. First, we get to 12 DISC styles because there are four “core” styles (D, I, S and C), each of which is shown as a quadrant in the diagram above, and each quadrant is further divided into three styles.
These three variations for each core style (e.g., Dominance includes D, DI and DC styles), the latter two have to do with a test result that places the Dot (above in diagram) near an adjacent style indicating some level of “overlap” and its effect on behavior. The equivalent in M&B terms is a preference and its opposite (e.g., a Thinker preference near in strength to its opposite Feeler preference) and the impact of that on behavior.
We all know someone who was difficult to type in M&B at first because they seemed to be able to behave like both a preference and its opposite, almost on demand, like an actor. DISC has this notation ability built-in via the Dot and 2-letter styles (e.g., DI and DC) to show how different styles and behavior can lean into and overlap with others. This will make more sense as we proceed.
People with these fluid-seeming preferences are often said to be in the “midpoint” range for those preferences in M&B. To use the example above, this is like being identified as a Thinker in M&B while scoring a 55%-45% result on the Thinker-Feeler 0-100 scale. These results near the midpoint (or the middle 20%) have shown that one can have a natural (authentic) preference but can easily tap into or show/display their opposite as needed and generally without stress (“overlap” in DISC terms).
This is a key nuance to understand in this DISC-M&B comparison, and I use lowercase letters to indicate this M&B midpoint situation (e.g. Ef and eF, below). Years ago, I started using lowercase letters to show that a preference was within the middle 20% range, and that a person in that range can usually and smoothly transition to an opposite and back again. BTW - I’m an iNTJ. Met a rare Esfp recently.
Where might a lowercase preference better reflect your M&B type preferences?
But, what about those outside the range? Well, I’m a Thinker way outside the middle 20% range and I’m challenged to show my Feeler traits, actually it can be uncomfortable, even stressful in any duration. And, it’s obvious. I can’t even “fake it” very well.
Putting It All Together
Now let’s dive into the detail of how the four DISC core styles and their base characteristics correlate with the two M&B preference pairs of E/I and T/F, taking into consideration the “strength” of the trait.
As mentioned above, notice in the DISC-M&B cross reference (summary and detail versions) below that the two-letter M&B equivalent includes capped and lowercase letters (e.g., D, DI, DC = ET, Et, eT). In this example, all three of the “D” styles are Extraverted Thinkers (ET’s), but some vary in preference strength. Keeping the DISC framework in mind, let’s start at “D” and continue clockwise around the circular diagram.
My iNTJ type equates to the CD style below. Find yourself in these tables and learn where you fit in this multi-model comparison. Surprises await!
Summary DISC-M&B Cross Reference
DISC (D, DI & DC) - DOMINANCE = M&B (ET, Et, eT) - EXTRAVERTED THINKER
DISC (I, ID & IS) - INFLUENCE = M&B (EF, Ef, eF) - EXTRAVERTED FEELER
DISC (S, SI & SC) - STABILITY = M&B (IF, iF, If) - INTROVERTED FEELER
DISC (C, CD & CS) - CONSCIENTIOUSNESS = M&B (IT, iT, It) - INTROVERTED THINKER
Below is a more detailed cross reference table of the 12 DISC styles and their corresponding four M&B preference combinations (ET, EF, IF and IT) and which way they may “lean” or not. DISC styles below include a list of common characteristics within that style. Both relate to when a person is being authentic, and not acting or “faking it”.
Detailed DISC-M&B Cross Reference Table
DISC (D, DI & DC) - DOMINANCE = M&B (ET, Et, eT) - EXTRAVERTED THINKER
DISC: D - Dominance (direct, results-oriented, firm, strong-willed, forceful, with a task focus)
M&B: ET - Extraverted Thinker (ExTx - meaning all 4 ENTP, ENTJ, ESTP and ESTJ types are included in the DISC “D” style)
DISC: DI - Same as “D” above but can also show/display (I) Influence traits (see below) (Note: See the yellow Dot on the diagram at the beginning of this article, its location would tell you this person is a “DI,” meaning they lean toward and also show “I” traits)
M&B: ET (Et) - Same as ET above but Thinker can also show/display Feeler traits at times
DISC: DC - Same as “D” above but can also show/display (C) Conscientious traits (see below)
M&B: ET (eT) - Same as ET above but Extravert can also show/display Introvert traits at times
DISC (I, ID & IS) – INFLUENCE = M&B (EF, Ef, eF) – EXTRAVERTED FEELER
DISC: I - Influence (outgoing, enthusiastic, optimistic, high-spirited, lively, with a people focus)
M&B: EF - Extraverted Feeler (ExFx - meaning all 4 ENFP, ENFJ, ESFP, and ESFJ types are included in the DISC “I” style)
DISC: ID - Same as “I” above but can also show/display (D) Dominance traits (see above)
M&B: EF (Ef) - Same as EF above but Feeler can also show/display Thinker traits at times
DISC: IS - Same as “I” above but can also show/display (S) Stability traits (see below)
M&B: EF (eF) - Same as EF above but Extravert can also show/display Introvert traits at times
DISC (S, SI & SC) – STABILITY = M&B (IF, iF, If) – INTROVERTED FEELER
DISC: S - Stability (even-tempered, accommodating, patient, humble, and tactful, with a people focus)
M&B: IF - Introverted Feeler (IxFx - meaning all 4 INFP, INFJ, ISFP, and ISFJ types are included)
DISC: SI - Same as “S” above but can also show/display (I) Influence traits (see below)
M&B: IF (iF) - Same as IF above but Introvert can also show/display Extravert traits at times
DISC: SC - Same as “S” above but can also show/display (C) Conscientious traits (see below)
M&B: IF (If) - Same as IF above but Feeler can also show/display Thinker traits at times
DISC (C, CD & CS) – CONSCIENTIOUSNESS = M&B (IT, iT, It) – INTROVERTED THINKER
DISC: C - Conscientiousness (reserved, analytical, precise, private, systematic and task oriented, with a task focus)
M&B: IT - Introvert Thinker (IxTx - meaning all 4 INTP, INTJ, ISTP, and ISTJ types are included)
DISC: CD - Same as “C” above but can also show/display (D) Dominance traits (see above)
M&B: IT (iT)- Same as IT above but Introvert can also show/display Extravert traits at times
DISC: CS - Same as “C” above but can also show/display (S) Stability traits (see above)
M&B: IT (It) - Same as IT above but Thinker can also show/display Feeler traits at times