How we communicate with each other is key to how we build and manage our relationships. As a species, though, we are so complicated in how we think and communicate. What we say and what we hear is often filtered by our own experience and our preconceptions of others. What if we had a profiling tool that helped us understand ourselves and others a little better? Would that help us be more successful in our communication?
Profiling tools were developed in the early 20th century, following psychologist Dr. William Marston’s theory of four basic personality types: dominant, influential, steadfast and compliant, or DISC as it now more commonly known. Many other profiling tools evolved, similarly breaking people into one of a limited number of types, to help people assess styles of thinking, behaviour, or communication (e.g. MBTI/Myers-Briggs, HBDI/Herrmann, LSI/Human Synergistics, etc.).
These are licensed and restricted to use by certified practitioners, however there is one that has elements of all those, is open source, and royalty free:
The four-bird model (DOPE)
The four-bird model (sometimes called the DOPE test, after the four birds involved) was originally developed by Dr. Gary Couture in the 1970s, since when it has become increasingly popular. It’s rapid growth in use is partly because many people feel they can relate more to something visual and tactile like an eagle or dove, than to a concept like dominant or compliant. That it is freely available also helps.
The Dove is sympathetic, moderate, people-focused.
The Owl is technical, analytical, process-focused.
The Peacock is expressive, persuasive, recognition-focused.
The Eagle is bold, confident, results-focused.
It takes only minutes to complete a self-assessment questionnaire and map your results onto a grid to determine which type of bird you are. See the example shown below, which maps a score of 1.7 for responsiveness and 3.2 for assertiveness, indicating the person is a Peacock.
You can also use this exercise with your colleagues, as a fun ice-breaker and a useful tool to acknowledge that a team needs all types.
Although this is a highly subjective technique that only assesses you in the moment, it does illustrate how our awareness of different communication styles can help us communicate more effectively.
In February 2012, I hosted a workshop for IIBA Auckland, on ‘Managing Communication‘. This looked at how communication is the key to great relationships from home to work and everywhere in between (in honour of being held near St. Valentine’s Day). The speaker, Anna McNaughton, used the DOPE test as a fun profiling tool to help us to understand our communication styles. I was subsequently invited to give a masterclass on what it takes to be great at what we do, for which I further researched mastering our relationships and developed the whitepaper you can find below.
I have attached a downloadable PDF version of the self-assessment questionnaire with fuller explanations of the four birds.