"Why Can't You Behave?" (Managing Difficult Behavior)

Dr. Purushothaman
October 7, 2013

Anyone ever said this to you? How often have you said it to your children? Even though it's a rhetorical question, the answer is, "I am behaving, just not the way you want me to."

Human behavior is hard to understand. Or is it? What if you could understand - deeply - why one of your children talks all the time and the other hardly says anything? Or if a husband wants to talk things out and his wife clams up? (Yes, this happens. Loquaciousness is not a gender difference; it's a behavioral style difference.)

What if you could learn not only to understand annoying behavior, but also how to deal with it and even motivate someone to change?


Which of these behaviors annoys you?

People who resist change
People who force change
People with bubbly personalities
People who don't smile
People who need all the facts before taking action

And the list goes on. Your behavioral style determines how you handle people and situations, how you make decisions (or fail to), how you communicate, how you pace yourself, how you respond to rules and regulations. In fact, your behavioral style is the basis for how you do things.


Once I was visiting my mother in Arkansas. My aunt Natalie and cousin Mary came to Mom's house for dinner. Natalie asked how she could help and Mother said she could slice the tomatoes. As she began slicing, my mother scurried over to her, grabbed the knife, and said, "No, do it this way." Natalie asked calmly, "Do you want me to slice the tomatoes or do you want to do it?"

I had to smile, understanding why Mom did that even though she had once admonished me, "If you hire a dog, don't bark for it." My mother's core behavioral style is the type that believes there's a "right" way to do everything and that one should never break the rules. Her behavior didn't stem from wanting to control the situation (bossiness), but from her fear of doing things the "wrong" way (in her opinion).

This situation occurred because Mom has a Core C behavioral style. C stands for Cautious, Compliant to Standards.


Mom is also high in the S (Steadiness) behavioral style, as was her brother and all but one of her four sisters. People high in the S factor are helpful, sometimes to a fault.

Whenever we'd all get together for a big family dinner, Mom and her sisters would gather in the kitchen to cook. We female cousins would feel obliged to join them. All I ever heard was, "You sit down; I'll do this."

"No, you sit; I'll do it." It was always a contest over who could help the most. It drove me crazy and I'd end up going outside to play with my cousins, which is my style's favorite thing to do. I have the Core I (Influencing) style, which thrives on interaction with other people.


How many times have family members, friends, or co-workers come to blows or gotten their feelings hurt because they disagreed on how things should be done?

In an argument do you tend to yell, criticize, or punch the wall? Or do you pout and become passive-aggressive? Do you berate the person until there's nothing left to say, or do you walk away because you detest conflict? Do these behaviors lead to positive relationships? The reason behind your conflict style is your behavioral style.

If people could learn to understand what causes behavioral style differences and adapt to them, the world would be a better place.


Conflicts are bound to arise between people who are extroverted vs. introverted, people-oriented vs. task-oriented. Slow-moving people are frustrated by fast-paced people and vice versa. Friendly, outgoing people get upset by quiet, non-smiling types who won't acknowledge them. Polite, good listeners can scream on the inside by someone who won't stop talking, but they're too nice to walk away. And nobody likes a bully.

The secret to improving communication, and thereby relationships, is:

Understand your DISC behavioral style
Understand different DISC behavioral styles
Adapt to the other person's style

When two people both adapt to each other's styles, real communication begins and better rapport is the result.

Read Related Recent Articles