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Teaching Opinion

Coaches Should Know Their Communication Strengths to Collaborate With Others

By Starr Sackstein — November 22, 2016 3 min read
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Great professional learning is often hard to come by, especially when we don’t get to choose what it looks like on our own. Fortunately for me, the folks at the UFT Teacher Center take their professional learning experiences very seriously and work hard to provide opportunities modeled much in the way they hope we will present it.

This past new teacher workshop day was all about communication styles. We had the chance to take a DISC survey thinking in terms of how we communicate with the adult populations in our schools. It’s very important to consider who your audience is when taking this inventory, as it was explained because the context of how we participate in conversations with different kinds of people can skew our communication style profile for school.

As I opened up my packet, thinking this would all be very easy, I found myself quite torn with some of the groups of words. How do you put words/characteristics into a hierarchy if you don’t necessarily even connect with some words, or connect with others in what feels like an equal way?

Since I was asked to trust my gut, I tried not to overthink it, only to find out that my working communication style is “dominance.” Honestly, before I read the description I was kind of embarrassed and maybe even a little ashamed, as this word feels very negative to me.

Of course, our trainers worked hard to not placed judgment on any of the communication styles, reminding us that knowledge is power and knowing who we are can help us communicate better with people of the same kind of style as well as people who fell into the other categories.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll end the suspense. People characterized with a dominance communication style are all about being direct and strong-willed. As I was reading the responses and seeing that I did fit the bill, I also was reminded of when I learned about Love Languages, and these two ideas worked together well. The rest of my profile had me tied with steadiness and conscientiousness, with influence as my lowest factor.

We have to remember that we all have elements of all four of below in us and no one is better than another.

The four kinds of communication covered by DISC are (information taken from the DISC Dimensions of Behavior survey):


  • Dominance: Motivated to solve problems and get immediate results. Tends to question the status quo. Prefers direct answers, varied activities, and independence.
  • Influence: Motivated to persuade and influence others. Tends to be open, verbalizing thoughts and feelings. Prefers working with people rather than alone.
  • Steadiness: Motivated to create a stable, organized environment. Tends to be patient and a good listener. Prefers participating in a group rather than directing it; also prefers listening more than talking.
  • Conscientiousness: Motivated to achieve high personal standards. Tends to be diplomatic, carefully weighing pros and cons. Prefers environments with clearly defined expectations.

We spent the rest of the day thinking about how other communication styles like to be communicated with, which was very useful. After all, when working with teachers on student-centered coaching, we need to communicate in a way that our colleagues can hear us. It’s less about how we feel and more important to work with their needs.

However, knowing where we fit in the equation also helps us understand where to be more sensitive to other people’s needs. For example, although I prefer people to know what they want to say before we talk, some folks need to talk it out and sometimes, just being a sounding board is what they are looking for. Although this is my dominant means of communication, I need to be aware of who communicates this way, so I offer what they need and not treat them as I would want to be treated.

More important than learning about myself and others was dispelling myths about certain ways of communicating and working on leaving judgment behind. It’s important to see these styles as a given and once we know who we are and we are dealing with, we can more effectively collaborate.

What can you do to better understand yourself as a communicator and use your strengths to help others collaborate? please share

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