Flipping the DiSC: From Marston’s Normal to Neurodiversity

The DiSC personality assessment has long been a cornerstone in the fields of personal development and organizational behavior. Its foundations lie in William Moulton Marston’s 1928 work, “Emotions of Normal People,” which introduced the classification of human behavior into four primary emotional dimensions: Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance. While this model has been instrumental in understanding human interactions, it’s essential to reexamine its relevance in the context of our growing awareness of neurodiversity and the benefits of complementary tools like the EQ-i 2.0 assessment.

Marston’s Emotional Archetypes

Marston’s framework categorizes individuals based on their dominant emotional responses, leading to the development of the modern DiSC assessment. This tool has helped countless individuals and organizations enhance communication and teamwork by understanding behavioral styles. However, it inherently assumes a normative standard of behavior and emotion, which can marginalize those who fall outside this perceived norm, particularly neurodiverse individuals.

The Challenge of Neurodiversity

Neurodiversity recognizes the wide range of neurological variations, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions. These differences are natural and valuable aspects of human diversity. Marston’s model, with its emphasis on “normal” emotions, can inadvertently exclude and misinterpret the behaviors of neurodiverse individuals, leading to misunderstandings and missed opportunities.

Limitations of a One-Size-Fits-All Model

The DiSC assessment’s one-size-fits-all approach presents several limitations:

  1. Reductionist Framework: By simplifying human behavior into four categories, DiSC overlooks the complexity and nuance of neurodiverse experiences. This can result in a limited understanding of an individual’s emotional and cognitive processes.
  2. Misinterpretation of Behaviors: Neurodiverse behaviors may be mischaracterized when viewed through the DiSC lens. For instance, someone with ADHD might be unfairly labeled as lacking compliance or steadiness, without recognizing their unique strengths and perspectives.
  3. Exclusionary Norms: Emphasizing “normal” emotions excludes those who operate outside these norms, perpetuating stigma and misunderstanding of neurodiverse individuals. This can hinder the creation of inclusive environments that support diverse talents.

Integrating Emotional Intelligence with EQ-i 2.0

To address these limitations, integrating tools like the EQ-i 2.0 assessment can provide a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of individuals, especially within the context of neurodiversity.

Benefits of EQ-i 2.0 in Adapting to Neurodiversity:

  1. Holistic Self-Awareness: EQ-i 2.0 measures emotional intelligence across a range of competencies, including self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal skills, decision-making, and stress management. This broader approach captures the diverse ways people experience and express emotions.
  2. Enhanced Emotional Competencies: EQ-i 2.0 emphasizes the development of emotional and social skills, which are crucial for understanding and supporting neurodiverse individuals. It helps in recognizing and valuing different emotional responses and coping mechanisms.
  3. Improved Conflict Resolution: By providing tools for emotional regulation and empathy, EQ-i 2.0 aids in effective conflict management. This is particularly beneficial in diverse teams, where understanding and addressing different emotional needs can lead to better outcomes.
  4. Comprehensive Development Plans: Combining DiSC with EQ-i 2.0 enables the creation of more robust development plans. This dual approach ensures that both behavioral tendencies and emotional intelligence are addressed, leading to well-rounded personal and professional growth.
  5. Inclusive Leadership Development: Leaders equipped with insights from both DiSC and EQ-i 2.0 can better understand and support their neurodiverse team members. This promotes a leadership style that is both behaviorally and emotionally adaptive, fostering an inclusive work environment.

Promoting Understanding and Acceptance: The integration of EQ-i 2.0 helps educate individuals and organizations about the value of emotional intelligence in conjunction with behavioral insights. This promotes a deeper appreciation of neurodiversity and encourages the development of supportive practices.


While the DiSC assessment, rooted in Marston’s “Emotions of Normal People,” has provided valuable behavioral insights, it is essential to integrate it with tools like the EQ-i 2.0 to fully embrace and support neurodiversity. By expanding our understanding to include emotional intelligence, we can create more inclusive and adaptive environments that recognize and celebrate the full spectrum of human diversity. This holistic approach ensures that all individuals, regardless of their neurological makeup, can thrive and contribute their unique strengths.