Tips for Working With Different Personalities

By understanding DISC assessments and gaining insight from these situational examples, you and your team will glean better strategies for interacting with all types of clients.

As a broker, you work with a wide array of people every day. Whether they are clients, agents, or staff, the individuals you interact with have distinct personalities, idiosyncrasies, emotions, and challenges. You should approach each relationship differently.

For Lisa B. Marshall, that lesson took a while to learn. But now she trains others on how to interact with all kinds of people as a consultant and author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation. Her path to greater understanding of different personalities began as a young adult, when she was promoted to a training manager.

“I had 25 sales professionals reporting to me, and I was really over my head in that job,” Marshall says. Her own boss loved to engage in small talk and would spend time every day walking the floor, talking with salespeople about their personal lives. But Marshall’s personality is the exact opposite: She’s direct and succinct, engaging in little chitchat.

“I just wanted to get the work done. It was almost impossible for my boss and I to see eye-to-eye. I eventually quit my job after she told me I needed to change my personality,” Marshall says. That experience had an extreme effect on her. She realized she needed to adjust her communication style to individual personality types in order to have better outcomes with the people she worked with. Her epiphany turned into a new career for Marshall.

Mastering the DISC model of personality types can be helpful in better understanding people’s behavior and learning how to interact with them in a more productive manner, Marshall says. Here are some basics for getting started.

Learn the Four Personality Types

D: Dominant, deadline-oriented people who juggle many tasks at one time. They can also be impatient and are often the scorekeepers of everyone else.
I: Inspiring, outgoing, people-oriented types who naturally have the gift of gab and a life-of-the-party, spontaneous personality.
S: Supportive types who are reserved, people-oriented, sensitive, and reliable. They seek harmony, keep close personal relationships, and become the glue that keeps people together.
C: Cautious folks who can be reserved, task- and quality-oriented, and analytical thinkers. They seek accuracy and are great planners.

Everyone has a blend of communication styles, and Marshall says we use different styles at different times in our lives. But she calls the DISC assessment a general tool to help understand someone you haven’t met or want to get to know, such as a new staff member or an agent you’re looking to recruit. Taking the DISC assessment will also help you gain insight into your own personality and communication style.

Unfortunately, you and your agents are not going to automatically know where clients fall on the DISC spectrum. But knowing how different personality types like to communicate will help. Here are a few situational examples with different personalities that Marshall has encountered and how she, as well as other real estate brokers, have developed strategies for successful working relationships.

Work with a client base you understand: Tammy Stuart, broker-owner at Stuart & Associates Real Estate in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was married to a police officer for 13 years. “I have a strong referral base within,” she says. Stuart recognizes the pressures men and women in law enforcement face, so she has a good understanding of their personality types and desire to lead or control a situation. “Because of this, I am able to serve them with a high level of patience, guidance, and reassurance,” she explains.

Empathize on stress points: Repeating someone’s statement or complaint back to them can help real estate professionals grasp the issue in their own words and defuse the situation, says George Donaldson Jr., broker-owner of Yucca, REALTORS®, in Desert Center, Calif. “It’s important that the person understand you are not mocking them but making sure you got it right,” he says.

Defuse the know-it-all: Marshall admits that arrogance is a tough trait for her to deal with. “I’m all for self-confidence and doing what you need to do, but not at the expense of others,” she says. Marshall handles those who often expect to be right by being compliant and allowing them to share their knowledge. It makes them feel good, Marshall says. Try not to ask too many “why” questions because it will make that personality type feel challenged. 

Calm those who catastrophize everything: When Stuart confronts someone like this, she asks them: "Is this an inconvenience, or is this a tragedy?" More often than not, this helps them put things in perspective. 

Be the rock when emotions run rampant: Remind yourself that you have the great privilege to serve people as they make what is oftentimes their largest financial investment. It’s usually the most emotionally charged time in their lives, Stuart explains. “Whether that is positive or negative, it is our duty to counsel them through the process by being their voice of reason and a reassuring advocate,” she says.

Help someone decompress: Sometimes, if you speak slower and lower your tone of voice, it can help slow down someone who’s speaking anxiously and erratically. “They will have to listen more carefully because you are speaking softly, and that also can defuse the issue,” Donaldson says.

Soothe the curmudgeon: Not everyone is an “I” on the DISC personality spectrum. Some “negative Nancy”-types can be very overwhelming. “You just have to assume all this negativity is their stuff and not your own,” Marshall explains. Try to find something you both agree on, and then say, “I think we can agree that we both agree on this. Now, let me share my point of view,” she suggests. Always stay objective, which can be the hard part, and don’t let an attack get to you personally.

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