God’s Gift of Personality

By Fr Bogdan Djurdjulov

That people are different is no secret. Our Lord clearly uses people with different personalities to do His work. The Bible is full of different types. For example: there’s the direct and creative style of St Paul, the conscientious and detailed style of Moses, the sensitive style of St Peter and the inspirational style of St Stephen. We have much more in common with Biblical personalities than we may think. After all, they were human like us. That’s the beauty of our Lord’s creation—we’re all special and have a purpose for being.

Getting along with people is easier when we keep some basics in mind. First, seek to better understand yourself, how you deal with challenges, relate to others, deal with your surroundings, know what you believe and value. Then, learn how to better understand others—their way of doing things and relating. Learning what others value and believe allows you to know what they’re like so you can treat them as they need to be treated.

Even when people are going in the same direction, they may follow a different road. It doesn’t necessarily make it wrong; it’s just different. The Bible gives us vivid pictures of different personality styles at work. Read about Moses, Saul and David, for example.

Understanding Conflicts

Take a moment and think of the last time you had a disagreement or misunderstanding. What was it about? Sometimes we may think that others are just trying to be difficult. More often than not, those “clashes” or conflicts are no more than a matter of approaching and seeing things differently—not “personal” issues at all. We also react differently to one another. Sometimes we instantly feel close to someone. We feel they’re kindred spirits, as though we’ve known them for years. On the other hand, after only 5 or 10 minutes with someone else, we may start to feel uncomfortable, uneasy, as though we’re on different wave-lengths, miles apart.

Personality Watching Is Very Old

Trying to understand behavior is thousands of years old. People have been attempting to figure each other out from the time of Adam and Eve. Personality is complex and dynamic. There’s a fascinating interplay of our habits, preferences and perceptions of life. Today, there are dozens of ways to describe styles of behavior. Books like I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You and Please Understand Me, try to help readers understand and appreciate the value of normal human diversity. The names to describe behavioral and personality styles may change, but the characteristics of each style stay pretty much the same. They group behavior into four major categories. You’ve no doubt heard of or experienced for yourself one of the many models.

Why Learn About Behavioral Styles?

So, why do we need to know all of this, you may ask? The Bible makes it clear that we were created to live in relationship with others—to love one another, to care about each other’s welfare, to serve one another, to follow Christ’s teaching “to do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt 7:12). We learn this also in Christ’s two great commandments. The first is”...you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:30-31). That’s why it’s important.

Knowing at least the basic characteristics or patterns of relating to others helps us to build better relationships. Most of us would agree that that’s a worthy goal. It helps reduce conflict, tension and stress. It makes relationships more enjoyable and fulfilling. It’s easier to make a point when we speak and behave in a language the other understands. Proverbs 25:11 tells us that “a word fitly spoken is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.” Rather than ramming our desires down people’s throats, why not practice adapting our style to better reach others and be better understood.

Our Lord Is Our Best Example

Examples abound in Scripture where our Lord adapted His approach to His listeners. He used one approach with the Pharisees (direct and to the point), a differently style when He related a parable (learning through example), a different one when He walked the streets and spoke to the woman at the well or answered the question of the young rich man. He adapted His style and approach with each of His disciples—from being patient to being very direct. Each one was treated differently, but loved no less. This is our key to better understanding—learning to adapt (not change our essence or nature) our own individual style so that we’re better understood. While each of us has a dominant style of interaction, we can adapt to each others’ styles. This comes with practice.

A Helpful Behavioral Model

A behavioral model which I like for its simplicity is called DISC. DISC is an acronym for





It’s based on a theory first developed by Dr William Moulton Marston in the 1940’s. His research suggests that each person’s preferred behavioral style falls into one of four categories. Although all four styles are used by each of us in varying degrees, one will describe us better than the others. DISC only measures observable behavior.

From the basic four DISC core styles come fifteen “classical patterns” each with its own variation. DISC doesn’t measure skills, experience, values, intelligence, beliefs, or knowledge. DISC style descriptors aren’t meant to label people’s behavior. They simply help us clarify the normal differences in people, break down barriers and improve communication. All styles are necessary and valuable.

The four styles are arrived at by determining whether behavior is direct or indirect and whether it is oriented towards tasks and results or people and ideas. Just recognizing if you or someone else is direct or indirect, task or people oriented, will give you some valuable clues to how to better communicate with this person.

DISC Behavior Model Chart
Ideas & People Tasks & Results
Direct Style
Influencer Persuader I
D Dominant Director
Steady Supporter S
C Complaint Conscientious




See Where You Fit In

Direct or Indirect?

With some people you quickly know where they stand—they are direct and fast paced, they seem to go for it, take risks, they’re forceful, talkative and can decide quickly. The Dominant Director (D’s) and Influencing Persuasive (I’s) types are examples of direct styles.

On the other hand, there are the indirect styles. They tend to be more quiet, patient, cautious, cooperative and easy-going. They’re often better listeners than the direct types, may take longer to make decisions and take less risks. The Steady Supporter (S’s) and Compliant (C’s) styles are examples of indirect types.

Question: Which style best describes you—Direct or Indirect? Think of people you know who are like you or different from you. Which is easier to get along with? Why?

People and Ideas or Tasks and Results

People and Idea styles are open, appreciative and supportive—easy to get to know. They’re enthusiastic and often share their feelings. They’re relaxed and warm and seem to go with the flow. The Steady Supporter (S) and Influencing (I) styles are open and supportive types. They emphasize people and ideas. They appreciate harmony.

Then there are the types that seem more Task and Results oriented. They take longer to show you their warm side. This type likes structure, procedures, guidelines and facts. They prefer to get to the point and don’t like their time wasted. They tend to keep their feelings inside. The Dominant (D) and Compliant/Conscientious (C) styles are task and result oriented styles.

Question: Which style best describes you—Task and Result or People and Ideas? Think of people you know who are the same or different from you. Which is easier to get along with? Why?

Now that you’ve decided which of the above two styles fits you best, find yourself on the DISC chart.

For example: if you decide you are more direct, people and idea oriented you’re core style is that of an Influencer / Persuader—a Core I. If you think you are more task and results oriented, then you would be a Cautious / Conscientious style or a Core C. Remember, you’re a combination of all the styles in varying degrees, but one will fit you better than the others. An important note to keep in mind is that each style has its potential limitations and weaknesses. Our weaknesses can also teach us much. No one style is better than another. All are useful and important!

A Case In Point, #1

A parish priest invited me to facilitate a communication workshop with his thirteen Parish Council members. The pastor said they were experiencing increased tension and conflict. He thought I could be more objective and see what was happening. “No one seems to listen to anyone. They’re all frustrated and people are making all sorts of excuses why they can’t make the meetings,” Fr James (not his name) said.

Upon closer observation, I found that Fr James had a Steady Supportive style, the Council president and the secretary had a Dominant Director Style, the treasurer was a Cautious / Conscientious type and the remainder of the Council was divided among Steady Supportive types and a few less Cautious styles. It’s not that they couldn’t get along with one another. It’s just that by this time they were tuned out and irritated with one another personally. Issues became “personal.”

A Steady Supporter (S), Fr James was working hard trying to get people to work together. He valued harmony. The “Director” (D) president was going head to head with the secretary. Dominant / Director

Neither of them could seem to agree what should go in the minutes and what was finally decided on in meetings. They used up valuable time arguing with each other. Meanwhile the rest of the group got lost in the shuffle and tuned out because they didn’t feel heard. The Supportive (S) types stopped trying and the Conscientious (C) types just got lost in the details of unfinished business. Finally, people started finding excuses not to come at all. Does this sound familiar?

Long story short. When group members began understanding the dynamics of their personality styles in more objective terms, (rather than as personal issues), they began to see that they were all coming at things from their own perspectives (not right or wrong—just their own) and were not listening to others’ views. Some thought the problem was the two dominant types and others thought that the more quiet cautious types were just being obstinate because they did not say much. The steady supporter types could not figure out why they just could not all get along and let things go. They wanted harmony and balance.

After some additional work in understanding personal preferences, drawing on Scripture and the writings of various saints, a noticeable difference occurred in their communication. Each person learned about the strengths and weaknesses of their own style. Dominant (D’s) style learned that they were overusing their position and lacked diplomacy. The C’s realized that they were being too defensive and appeared overly aloof. The S’s discovered that they yielded to controversy and disliked unwarranted change. The group also discovered that they were missing the I’s, people with a nature preference for influencing—a style that lends itself to optimism, outreach and creative problem solving. They finally dismissed the notion that their problems were “personal.”

As a result, the pastor and the council tried harder to take into account the greater needs of the parish at large and asked for input from others. They took more time to listen. Certainly, this council did again experience conflict, but now they had a better grasp of their group dynamics. They also understood that just because someone disagrees with you, it’s not meant to be a personal attack. This success story took time to happen and required lots of practice.

Case #2

Another situation where an understanding of behavioral styles was helpful, involved novice Church School teacher. She knew her material inside-out and diligently delivered every detail according to the lesson plan. She said she enjoyed teaching her fifth grade class and felt comfortable and confident with the material. She couldn’t figure out, however, why the children were so quiet. “After a short while they get bored,” she said.

After a little bit of sharing, she discovered that her detailed and fact oriented style (“C”), didn’t engage her fifth graders for too long. While she was comfortable with her style, she realized that she needed to adapt her delivery from pure lecturing to more activity-oriented projects that engaged a broader range of behavioral styles. She admitted that she liked to have everything in order and in front of her. Children also have distinct behavioral preferences that need to be addressed.

She decided to modify her approach, though it was a bit scary for her. She later reported that when she asked the kids to talk about themselves and how the material related to them, the class opened up. She also tried different approaches that appealed to the more “hands-on” type. It didn’t change who she was, just how she taught the class.

Case #3

Another situation involved a “Greeter Program” at a mid-sized parish. The enthusiastically and socially oriented Influencer types (“I’s”) wanted to make sure that all new visitors were greeted upon arrival to the church and then introduced after the Liturgy to the entire congregation during announcement time. New volunteers were sought. One person who volunteered was quiet and reserved. He wanted to help, but greeting new people made him nervous.

With some creative brainstorming, the greeters came up with a plan on how to involve the new recruit in a way that would make him feel comfortable and useful. They asked him to record the names and addresses of the visitors and send them follow-up literature about the church so they wouldn’t fall through the cracks. He gladly agreed.

Knowing One’s Behavioral Style

Once you know and understand your own behavioral style, you can adapt it to meet the needs of other styles. For example, knowing that someone prefers to have lots of details can help you to prepare your material to suit their expectations. Knowing someone prefers to talk things through rather than reading long detailed reports can help you prepare your presentation with more discussion and less paperwork.

While you can’t change others, you can change your own approach, adapt and influence others. All of us are capable of adjusting our styles of interaction without changing the essence of who we are. Treating others as they want to be treated is applying the Golden Rule in our communication skills. A very important component is listening.

Understanding behavior is only a beginning. The descriptions above were very basic. There is much more to it. Behavior doesn’t answer all questions and solve all problems. People are too complex to be figured out solely on the basis of personality preferences. But what a difference it can make. It does help us move forward. Relationships work best when we all play by the same rules. Our best rule is following Christ’s own example. This does not always happen, as we well know. Still, each of us has a personal responsibility for making relationships work as part of living a Christ-filled life.

Some Practical Exercises

Try these activities:

Learn what your answers tell you about personality styles.

How would you describe your own personality style?

How is your personality similar or different from your parents, brothers, or sisters? How about other relatives? Make a list. Talk about it with them.

How would others describe you? How different do you think it would be than your own perception?

How would you describe your friends? Are they more or less like you?

What does Ps 139:1-3, 13-14 have to say about your personality?

What types of people are easiest for you to get along with? Most difficult?

What motivates you? discourages you?

How do you make the Bible come alive for you? What activities or experiences help you to better understand its contents?

What types of sermons or teaching approaches do you prefer? Not prefer?

(For Pastors) How would you describe your sermon style? When preparing a sermon, do you deliberately take into account the different ways people receive and process information or learning?

(For Pastors and Educators) If you haven’t already, tape (audio and/or video) your next sermon or class, and get feedback. Was it effective? Did your message reach a cross-section of different styles?

How would you describe your leadership styles?

Which Biblical personalities are you most like? Least like?

(Group Discussion) Describe the difference in style of the following Biblical figures:

St Paul (D) Acts 9:3-19

St Peter (I) Jn 21:1-22

Abraham (S) Gen 12-22

Moses (C) Ex 3-4

Fr Bogdan Djurdjulov is Associate Pastor of St Paul Orthodox Church in Dayton, OH and Principal of Creative Edge Consulting which is dedicated to recognizing, inspiring, and promoting optimal relationship skills.