Knowing Your Audience Better With Seinfeld

Demographics matter – when you understand the demographics of your audience you can better connect with them.  This is true in presenting financial information, developing new business, understanding internal and external customers, developing a professional network, and just about every kind of interaction with people.  It is inevitable that at some point you will deal with individuals who will not share your views, opinions, or approach. In those instances, you want to quickly assess a person’s communication and personality styles so you can adapt, improvise and keep the conversation moving forward.

There are a number of tests that can help us understand the personality and communication styles of others, including the popular D.I.S.C. model. This model contains four quadrants that represent parts of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In general, the left hemisphere is where logic and language reside, and the right hemisphere is where visual and creativity live. The four quadrants of the D.I.S.C. model are Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Influence and steadiness inhabit the right hemisphere while dominance and conscientiousness inhabit the left hemisphere. The ability to understanding the endearing qualities and the “at their worst” characteristics of each quadrant will help you to better connect with your audience, no matter the situation.

What Seinfeld Quadrant Are You?  

I’ll let you in on an interesting tidbit: successful sitcoms often include a character from each quadrant. It is a proven formula because the resulting friction tends to be funny.  Next time you watch a sitcom, take note of who is in what quadrant.  Seinfeld is a perfect example of this because each of the main characters exemplifies one of the D.I.S.C. quadrants.

Jerry: Dominance

These people are the drivers among us. They are competitive, decisive, independent, determined, and results-oriented. Control and admiration are critical. They also tend to be domineering, impatient, and poor listeners. Disorganization and wasting time drive them crazy. They don’t think you should bring your feelings into work. Some people in this category might be considered poor listeners because they often make a decision independent of input, and anyone else’s words are wasting precious oxygen. In fact, sometimes they are described as bullies.  People who fit this quadrant are CEOs, CFOs, Managing Partners, Mark Cuban and General Colin Powell.  Their endearing quality is their ability to get things done and take charge.  At their worst, they are very poor listeners.

Elaine: Influence

These are the cheerleader types who want to do what they love without being confused by the facts. They are optimistic, animated, persuasive, imaginative, enthusiastic, excellent communicators who enjoy telling stories. Often described as dreamers and very creative, they love having fun, being the center of attention, and receiving applause. However, they tend to talk too much, overwhelming others with information, and they have short attention spans.  Structure frustrates them. People who fit this quadrant are salespeople, speakers, and coaches, like Coach Boone in Remember The Titans movie. Their endearing quality is that they are good communicators and visionaries. At their worst, they tend to be disorganized and miss deadlines.

Kramer – Steadiness

These are the “can’t we all just get along and work together” people who want to be sure that everyone is okay. They are friendly, reliable, and supportive, like a Labrador Retriever. Patient and very diplomatic, they want everyone to like them and obsess if someone doesn’t. They are very concerned about personal relationships and harmony in the workplace but tend to be overly sensitive, conformist, and lacking in time boundaries. Rather than tell you what they think, they will say what you want to hear— which can be a dangerous trait. They don’t like to be rushed, don’t want to be alone, and avoid conflict when possible. People who fit this quadrant are human resources professionals, therapists, and clergy, like Pope Francis and Carl Jung. Their endearing quality is they understand diplomacy and demonstrate patience. At their worst, they tend to be indecisive, easily overwhelmed, and miss deadlines.

George – Conscientiousness

These are the thinkers. Efficient, thorough, accurate, and careful, they want to get it right every time. They are disciplined and love solving problems and researching issues. This group tends to be very critical and picky. They don’t like disorganization or surprises. People who fit this quadrant are accountants, engineers, actuaries, and the character Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory sitcom. Their endearing quality is that they love detail and research. At their worst, they are rigid, argumentative, and stubborn.

Understanding Your Sitcom Cast

Now that you understand the quadrants, you can begin to think about how to work and respond to any cast of characters attending your presentation. Friction will naturally arise because these are people with different outlooks. Still, you must tailor your presentation to meet a particular group communication style or to an audience that contains all types, like a company quarterly briefing or a board meeting. So, how do we connect and adapt to groups that are not like us?

  • To connect with those who are in the dominant quadrant, be direct, be specific, and offer multiple solutions. Remember, they are the decider. If you give them only one option, it’s more than likely going to fail, or it can become their idea instead of yours.
  • To connect with those who are in the influence quadrant, be enthusiastic and positive, and avoid details. Put things in a way that they can understand. Tell them a story versus spewing data at them. I have often heard accountants complain that the salespeople never get their expense reports in on time. My solution would be to point out to those salespeople that they file early for their tax refund so that the government doesn’t get to use their money any longer than necessary, so they should submit their expense report to the company for a similar reason.
  • To connect with those who are in the steadiness quadrant, engage in small talk, ask a lot of questions, and be informal, as if speaking with a friend. Just don’t let them suck away your time and extend your workday. You need to be respectful but firm about managing the conversation. Let them know you appreciate chatting, but it’s time to get down to business.
  • And for those who are in the conscientiousness quadrant, we need to communicate to people in the other three that we would like to focus on just the facts, please, so that we can get organized.

Having positive experiences with people from all backgrounds and perspectives starts with respect.  Respect comes from having a better understanding of who people are and what type of personality and communication style they possess.  Just like in improv, communication goes two ways, so the better we understand others—including their pet peeves and their hot buttons, their likes and dislikes—the better we will get along and can feed off of one another.  It always comes back to listening carefully to what people need and want, adapting readily to the situation, and taking your agenda off the table.