Four Letter Words for Greater Understanding


By Bo Hanson & Kate Ross, Athlete Assessments

In recent articles we have begun to explore how you can recognize the DISC Behavioral Patterns through observation of various TV show characters. Our article on ‘How DISC is like the Hogwarts Houses’ got a phenomenal response, so as a follow up (and to appeal to all ages!), we will be applying DISC theory to the popular TV series, M*A*S*H. This article discusses the main M*A*S*H characters and how they represent certain DISC behaviors and profiles.

We’ve noticed that TV shows featuring characters who demonstrate a broad array of DISC behavior styles, are often the most successful. In fact, the foundation to interesting interactions between people and how we create humor is in the difference between different DISC styles. M*A*S*H is definitely one such successful example.

The M*A*S*H Characters

Here are the main characters from M*A*S*H and our view of the different DISC Styles they represent.

Colonel Sherman Potter

Col Potter is a High Dominance (D) style who has learnt to be a lot more aware of his impact on others. In many ways, he is a role model leader. He is decisive, fast paced, strong, tough, demanding, results focused, yet for the most part, remains composed under pressure, rises to a challenge, tackles the difficult issues, confronts others about their behaviors and actions and always has the interests of his people at his core. He is a very empathic leader who can listen fairly to his people’s concerns and then make a rapid and informed decision. He does not hesitate to take action yet involves others who are experts to assist when required, such as using Captain Pierce for medical consultation and decision making. We believe these qualities are mostly “D” (Dominance) like in nature above any other styles. He also must have some level of the Influence (I) style as he enjoys the company of others and can be very social. The “I” (Influence) style gives him an easy ability to build rapport with diverse groups of people.

Major Margaret Houlihan

Major Houlihan is also a High “D” (Dominance) Style. What most gives this away is her guarded nature and not letting anyone get to know her well, especially her own nursing staff. She is also fast paced, direct with giving feedback and likes it given back to her in a direct manner also. She can be uncompromising and she has very high standards and expectations of others whom she works with. She also sees her work in a very task -orientated way and never gets personally involved with patients or staff to the degree where it compromises her ability to lead them. She is a very strong character and only rarely lets her guard down and shows some vulnerability.

Captain Hawkeye Pierce

Hawkeye is both a high Influence and high Dominance profile (and likely the “I” is the highest). He can see the fun side to everything, and deals with the pressurized situation by making jokes and being humorous. Hawkeye has great ability to handle pressure and perform at his best, and is very hard on himself when he makes a rare mistake. He takes great pride in being recognized as the number one surgeon in the unit. He is fast paced, direct with his communications yet tries to use an Influencing style of communicating rather than a telling style when he wants something done from another. He is open and caring about others and lets others get to know him well.

Captain B.J. Hunnicutt

B.J. is a high Steadiness (“S”) and slightly lower Influence profile. This is such a likable profile. Most people find it easy to build rapport with these style of people. B.J. demonstrates this by being friends with literally everyone (apart from playing some pranks on people from time to time, which is his high Influence style coming out). He never intends to hurt anyone and is often the one who keeps the peace and calms down others. He is very concerned about the well-being of others, is thoughtful and is happy to put the needs of others before his own.

Corporal Maxwell Klinger

It is a little more difficult to suggest a profile for Klinger. In M*A*S*H is often deliberately acting as outrageous as possible in order to get a Section 8. As most of his screen time is spent playing this character there are limited scenes which demonstrate his natural behavior. He is obviously incredibly determined and not overly concerned with what people really think of him. His desire to achieve a discharge is his strongest motivator, yet he is also very kind to his friends and can be energetic and enthusiastic in the way he communicates. I would suggest he is a high Influence “I” profile, which is often known as a Communicator Style.

Other factors also give his style away, by how he does not act. He is not concerned about rules and protocol even though he is trying to extort a rule to remove himself from the army. He is not overly organized or formal which means he is not a High C.

Corporal “Radar” O’Reilly

Radar is a high Conscientious (“C”) and high Steadiness profile. He is perceptive, a great observer, an excellent listener and is able to empathize with others, as he often does with wounded soldiers. Radar is organized, but not predictable (his filing system does not make sense to others). Radar is also good at breaking the rules, or at least bending them to get things done, which I feel is an adaptation to his natural behavior. This adaptation also demonstrates the high S in his profile, as he is often motivated to bend rules because of his concern for people.

Major Charles Winchester

Charles Winchester’s most visible DISC profile is his high Conscientious style and perhaps even a fair degree of “D” (Dominance) style too. He is naturally guarded, enjoys structure, and is a perfectionist. This perfectionist behavior is demonstrated through lines like “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on”. High “D” and “C” styles are often equally focused on getting the result but also doing it perfectly well. High C’s can have a tendency to be critical of others, and Charles demonstrates this behavior on a regular basis. Charles also likes to chip away at problems in a methodical fashion, a hallmark of the C Style. In his own words “All I have to do is set my mind to something, and eventually, inevitably, I conquer it”. It is in his word conquer which suggests the “D” in his style where a “C” is more likely to use less aggressive words suggesting instead they “checked the item off my list.” Charles also has a high need for status which is typical of a “D” style.

Father Mulcahy

Father Mulcahy is a high Steadiness “S” style, which complements his role as the M*A*S*H Chaplain. He demonstrates the excellent listening skills, slower pace and relationship focus which is integral to the High Steadiness profile. Other characters often turn to Father Mulcahy because he demonstrates these behaviors. Father Mulcahy has the long fuse of a high “S”, but his relationship focus means he is not afraid to speak up and protect of those he cares about.

Putting this into Action

We hope you enjoyed this brief insight into M*A*S*H and DISC, and the likely DISC Styles of the main characters. Next time you are enjoying your favorite TV show, it can be a valuable exercise to identify the DISC Style behaviors and conflicts of the main characters. This exercise can serve to deepen your understanding of DISC in an enjoyable way.

In our recent article on 3 Travel Tips (see the last page) featured in our latest magazine, we suggested that when your team travels next, don’t just watch a movie. Get your team to identify the likely DISC Profiles of the characters. Also ask them to articulate specific examples of the character’s behavior, which demonstrates their DISC Profile. This helps reinforce your teams understanding of DISC and ‘real life’ examples. As an advanced level of this exercise, ask your team to identify when someone is ‘adapting’ their natural behavior.

If you would like to find out more about DISC behavioral profiling, see our articles on DISC Theory and Application. At Athlete Assessments, we’re here to provide you with excellence in service and here to help you be your best. If there is anything we can assist you with, please Contact Us.

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