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Personality Types And Their Influence On Behaviour

If you've ever wondered why some people easy to communcate with and others a real struggle, then read this page which explains how our personalities differ and how to communicate effectively with all your PT clients

We all display a mixture of different characteristics in different situations with different people.

Personality has been studied for hundreds of years and several models are commonly used to help us ‘predict’ the likelihood of certain behaviours occuring.

Research has shown that analysis of a person’s personality can’t predict ‘one-off’ actions but can give an indication as to the likelihood of behaviours we will show over time. 

Our personalities interact with our environment so at any moment in time, we are a product of our personalities and our perceptions.

A commonly used personality model that is useful for personal trainers is known as the ‘DISC’ personality model.  

DISC is a personality model based on the work of psychologist William Marston.  Marston found that observable behavioural characteristics can be grouped into four major personality types.  Each behavioural type tends to exhibit specific characteristics.personal training DISC

DISC itself is purely an acronym for the four personality types which are:

  • Dominance  – which relates to control, power and assertiveness
  • Influence – which relates to social situations and communication
  • Steadiness – which relates to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
  • Compliance – which relates to structure and organisation


Every client of yours will posses all of these personality types, what differs between clients is the extent to which they are more or less one type or another.  Essentially a clients ‘personality’ refers to ‘the way they are most often’.  Knowing your clients DISC helps you to predict how they might respond to information and how they would like to be dealt with by you as their personal trainer.

The DISC assessments (worksheets) test a person’s preferences using word associations - you can download and use them by clicking on the highlighted link.  While you don’t need to complete these formal assessments with your clients it would be a good idea to complete the assessments on yourself.  This will enable you to identify your own DISC type from which you will be able to identify how you may need to adapt your behaviour to suit the individual DISC’s of your clients.

Characteristics of the four DISC types


Here is a summary of the four different ‘DISC’ personality types:


personal training dominancePeople who score high on the ‘D’ type factors enjoy dealing with problems and challenges.  These people will often be described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, determined, aggressive, ambitious and pioneering. 

High ‘D’ people are often found in leadership positions…this doesn’t mean they are ‘good’ leaders as their weaknesses often include being poor listeners, and being impatient and insensitive to others. 

‘D’ type people are bottom-line people who hate to waste time. They want straight talk and direct answers to their "WHAT" questions


personal training friendsPeople who score high on the ‘I’ type factors influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional.  They are commonly described as enthusiastic, magnetic, persuasive, warm, trusting, demonstrative and optimistic.

They like people and thrive in a social scene.  It’s important that others have a favourable impression of them.  Indeed high ‘I’ people are more interested in people than in accomplishing tasks. Time does tend to get away from them and everything takes a lower priority when they're discussing ideas. They believe everything will be all right and everyone is ‘such a nice person’.

They need freedom of expression; they can become easily distracted as they have trouble staying focused.  They tend to think in the future. They want answers to their "WHO" questions.


personal training steadyHigh ‘S’ people do not like sudden change, they like a steady pace and security.  These people are calm, relaxed, patient, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent and can tend to be unemotional and poker faced. 

Steady people get along well with others because they are flexible in their attitude. They may not say anything if they disagree because they like to keep the peace.  They like to help others and make good counsellors as they are great listeners. 

Steady people like to maintain familiar and predictable patterns. If they receive appreciation, they maintain a high level of performance. They like to feel comfortable with anything new before actually starting it.

Steady people will want answers to their "HOW" and "WHEN" questions.


personal training compliance(This category is also known as ‘Cautious’ or ‘Conscientious’) People who score high on the ‘C’ type adhere to rules, regulations and structure.  They like to do things well and do them well first time.  They are slow paced and task oriented.

High ‘C’ people are commonly described as careful, cautious, neat, systematic, accurate, and diplomatic.  Perfection is very important to ‘C’ people, and they tend to be critical of themselves.  They will study privately to learn about a subject before discussing it in public.

People can find it difficult to read high ‘C’s as they don't show their feelings. They tend to protect their privacy.  They make to-do lists. Compliant people want answers to their "WHY" and "HOW" questions.

Identifying your clients DISC


If you’re just getting to know your clients and haven’t had time to observe many of their behavioural characteristics then here are a few tips to help…

D and I people are ‘fast’ paced; they will speak quickly and fill in any of your personal training forms quickly.  S and C people will talk slower, and take their time to fill in any forms.  C people in particular will be meticulous when filling out any form; they will have very neat handwriting, whereas I people will likely have a big, loopy messy scrawl.

S and I people are people focused and more likely to be chatty.  As S type people are team oriented and like to help others, expect them to ask questions about you and talk about and praise others, while the I type person will love to chat about themselves and get the ‘goss’ on who’s doing what, and to whom in the club. 

D and C people are task focused, so they won’t be too chatty, in fact you may feel like you’re pulling your teeth out to get any personal information from them.  C people will ask lots of questions about anything relating to their training whereas D people will just want to get on with it.  D people will likely be up close and personal and hold direct eye contact with you whereas C people will appear to be less confident or direct with their body language. 

The following table helps to summarise the behavioural characteristics of the different DISC types.

personal training disc overview

Adapting your behaviour to suit your clients DISC

Now in case you haven’t noticed, different personality styles can clash!  A ‘D’ style person who may appear aggressive and insensitive to others is likely to annoy an ‘S’ style person who is likely to be very sensitive to the needs of others.  A fast talking scatterbrained ‘I’ type person is likely to annoy a slow thinking ‘C’ type perfectionist, and vice versa.

This is why it’s important for you to know and understand your own DISC, so that you don’t inadvertently clash with your clients.  It also highlights to you where you’ll need to adapt your typical behaviour to ensure you interact effectively and positively with all of your clients, all of the time.  Here are some guidelines for successful interaction…

With Dominant people

  • personal training dominanceBuild respect to avoid conflict
  • Focus on facts and ideas rather than people
  • Have evidence to support your ideas and advice
  • Be quick, focused and get to the point
  • Ask 'what' not 'how'
  • Talk about how problems will hinder accomplishments
  • Show them how they can succeed


With Influential people

  • personal training friendsBe social and friendly with them
  • Listen to them talk about their ideas
  • Help them find ways to translate the talk into useful action
  • Don’t spend too much time on the details
  • Motivate them to follow through to complete tasks
  • Recognise their accomplishments


With Steady people

  • personal training steadyBe genuinely interested in them
  • Create a human working environment for them
  • Give them time to adjust to change
  • Clearly define goals for them and provide ongoing support
  • Recognise and appreciate their achievements
  • Avoid hurry and pressure
  • Present new ideas carefully


With Compliant people

  • personal training complianceWarn them before and generally avoid surprises
  • Be well prepared. Don't ad-lib with them if you can help it
  • Be logical, accurate and use clear data
  • Show how things fit into the bigger picture
  • Be specific in disagreement and focus on the facts
  • Be patient, persistent and diplomatic


You can download and use the personality and behaviour worksheets to work out your own DISC profile and determine what aspects of your personality you may need to adapt to suit your different personal training clients.

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