Am I Rude? Am I Stubborn? Why Do People Misinterpret My Intentions?!

Our biases can cloud how we view the actions of others and can cause us to misinterpret their original intent.

Covered eye businessman choosing between two directions

The perception you have of the world impacts how you view yourself and the behaviors and actions of others. Think about a time you met someone for the first time – you notice if they are animated or shy, chatty or focused. Impressions usually lean towards the positive or negative.

Same person – same situation – different perceptions

Crowd-Of-Working-People holiday party

The same goes for how you perceive different situations. There are certain situations, like a quiet time to focus or juggling many tasks to get things done, that are energizing for some. For others, in those same situations, this may actually have the opposite effect and feel draining. Your reaction may not be influenced others, but by your own response to the situation.

Your assumptions and biases influence your judgment of the world; it’s the same for everyone else. Are you someone who tries to find the quietest, hidden spot at at a chaotic and loud work party (post-pandemic safe, of course)? You’re already plotting your earliest escape when your colleague sees you all ‘sad and alone’ and zips over to start a lengthy chat. Two people, at the same party, having completely different perceptions. Neither is necessarily wrong; just different.

DISC identifies your unique perceptions

BS Stress Asian Women Quiet and pensive

The DISC Model is designed as a safe and non-judgmental framework to describe and discuss how everyone prefers to do things. The attributes and adjectives describing the 4 main DISC styles, D, I, S, or C style, are essentially neutral. There is no good or bad style, and no better or worse style. How you describe and react to the words, “competitive’ and ’emotional’ is not the same for everyone. What meaning and negative/positive connotation do you ascribe to each word?

DISC helps your self-awareness and your understanding others. Equally important, it helps you understand how you come across to others. Remember, people cannot interpret your intentions; only your actions and behaviors.

How people misinterpret your intentions

Closeup portrait of woman pointing at man as if to say bad boy because he did something wrong, isolated on white backgroundDISC identifies differences in how people prefer to do things; how each style filters the world through their own lens. It enables you to make better decisions by recognizing and managing your external filters and internal filters. External filters are what you see and what you observe. Internal filters are how you use your past experiences and assumptions to make quicker observations.

The end goal is not to be the same for everyone in the interaction. If you are mindful of your assumptions and biases then you can manage them. If you don’t then it can impede your ability to interact well with others. And, while you hope others are also self-aware, you cannot assume they always understand your intentions. They too, are observing and judging your behaviors as you are judging theirs.

The next time you’re working carefully and diligently, confident in making sure every step is correct, take a minute to ask yourself, ‘how am I coming across to others?’ Could your team members be describing you as ‘too careful’ or ‘too slow’?

Identifying and adjusting to overcome your biases

BS Diverse workers discussing at table

Preconceived views cloud your judgment and turn your assumptions about others into biases. When people misread your intentions then miscommunication occurs. So, how can you overcome or manage your biases?

Biases are hard to change and inhibit your ability to interact well with others. You only see the world through your own positives and negatives. DISC can help by practicing your self-awareness and knowing when to modify your behaviors.

You will need to practice identifying the behavioral styles of others. DISC provides a simple 3 step approach to identifying styles of others; observe, assess, and recognize. When identifying styles of others, be mindful of how your biases can influence how accurate you are. Do you think I-styles are disorganized and ditzy? Do you consider all S-styles to be indecisive and stubborn?

Making judgments typically elicit stronger emotions. These emotions make it difficult to modify your behaviors because you don’t have the capacity to adjust at that moment. You end up staying firmly in your comfort zone. Your style works until it doesn’t and you need to know when to move outside of your comfort zone. Understanding your preferred behaviors and biases enables you to better manage emotions that hinder your ability to adjust and succeed.

Goal of DISC

Perception helps you to make quicker decisions and it’s easier, but don’t let it become a bias that clouds your judgment. Self-awareness gives you the opportunity to understand how your styles impact your views of others; how you tend to judge and assign traits to them.

You need to continually assess and validate your present beliefs in order to prevent them from turning into misconceptions. Maintain self-awareness, actively identify the style of others, and make adjustments. The ultimate goals of DISC are to better your interactions and support your success.

Now, ask yourself, ‘how am I showing up right now?’