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Adaptations in DISC: What You Need to Know

Adaptations aren't usual when it comes to behavior but understanding them through the lens of DISC can take some work.


Learning the different DISC styles

Adaptations aren’t unusual when it comes to behavior but understanding them through the lens of DISC can take some work.


What does it mean when someone adapts their behavior? How does that affect their work? Can you understand these shifts better using DISC?


Let’s answer those questions!


What Does it Mean When Someone Adapts?

TTI SI DISC assessments have two graphs: the Natural graph and the Adapted graph.

When some adapts, it means they are shifting their Natural behavioral style. This can happen because their position demands it, they’re taking on work that doesn’t align with their preferred behavior, they’re starting a new job, or even because they perceive a need for the shift.


For example, someone might naturally be a Reserved communicator, preferring to be restrained, controlled, and socially discreet.


However, if their job calls for them to speak publicly, they will have to adapt their behavior to a more Outgoing style. If this is a one-off occurrence, it might not show up in their graph, but if they have to adapt on a regular basis, there will likely be a significant shift in their Influence score between their Natural and Adapted styles.

What Does Adaptation Look Like in DISC?

Adapting the Dominance Score

If your Dominance score goes up, you are becoming more Direct. You might be more assertive, challenge-oriented, and confrontational.


If your Dominance score goes down, you are becoming more Reflective. You might be more cooperative, low-key, and outcome focused.


(Learn more about Dominance here.)

Adapting the Influence Score

If your Influence score goes up, you are becoming more Outgoing. You might be more people-oriented, optimistic, and enthusiastic.


If your Influence score goes down, you are becoming more Reserved. You might be more restrained, controlled, and socially discrete.


(Learn more about Influence here.)

Adapting the Steadiness Score

If your Steadiness score goes up, you are becoming more Steady. (Makes sense, right?) You might be slowing down your pace and seeking stability in your role, becoming both more considerate and more hesitant.


If your Steadiness score goes down, you are becoming more Dynamic. You might be increasing your activity level and pace and might jump into projects and tasks faster than your Natural pace.


(Learn more about Steadiness here.)

Adapting the Compliance Score

If your Compliance score goes up, you are becoming more Precise. You might lower risk-taking, focus closely on details, or be in a position when you need to be accurate since you are very concerned with accuracy.


If your Compliance score goes down, you are becoming more Pioneering. You might become more independent and less bound by rules You are likely looking for the best outcome with the best possible means, no matter how random or experimental.


(Learn more about Compliance here.)

Is Adaptation Always a Bad thing?

No! Adapting your behavior is a normal part of life; most people experience at least some difference between their Natural and Adapted styles. It makes sense to have to adjust your behavior in a working environment as opposed to your behavior at home with your loved ones.


The real problems arise when someone is consistently over-adapting.

What Does it Mean When Someone Over-Adapts?

Over-adapting happens when someone’s Adapted score shifts significantly from their Natural behavior. It’s officially considered an over-adaptation if there is a 15-point difference or higher, especially at 20 to 30 points, but a shift of even 10 points can be significant. It all depends on the individual in question and their experience and reasoning.


“In these cases, I get curious during a debrief,” said Cassandra Nelson, TTI SI’s Facilitator & Curriculum Designer. “That’s when I ask clients: are you adapting to succeed or survive?”


This difference is key for an individual's well-being, engagement, and capacity in their roles.


About the Author

Jaime Faulkner believes authenticity and storytelling are the keys to successful marketing. As a graduate from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, she loves finding and connecting narratives. When she's not at work, she's psychoanalyzing contestants on The Bachelor, painting, listening to podcasts, or playing tabletop RPGs.

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