The Human Fluency® model: A closer look at Discipline

By S.B. Carman PhD. and P. Kruijsifix

Our model looks at how human interactions can be strengthened in order to develop, nurture and
sustain healthy, meaningful relationships that are needed to live our personal and professional
lives. In this article we examine one of the elements, Discipline, more closely.

Prior to COVID-19, Tokyo was preparing for the 2020 Olympics which will feature more than
11,000 athletes from 206 countries competing for medals across 339 events, representing 33
different sporting events.

Regardless of how closely you follow the Olympics, and whether an athlete is competing
individually or on a team, most understand the incredible sacrifice and dedication all athletes give
to their sport. One can describe the focus of each athlete as discipline: the rigorous activity,
exercise, or regimen that develops or improves a skill. There is a deliberateness and intentionality
to how these athletes approach their sport. They time, measure, and weigh everything related to
their sport to determine how they can improve in any way no matter how small.

When it comes to how we approach human interactions within modern organizations, we find that
those who approach interactions with this same type of discipline are those who experience
interactions that are stronger and able to sustain healthy, meaningful relationships that can be so
rewarding in our personal and professional lives.

In previous articles we explored what Depth and Discernment mean and how they can make a
difference in our interactions with people. Adding Discipline will further raise any conversation to a
higher level of meaning, connectedness and effectiveness. In a nutshell Discipline boils down to this:
The ability and commitment to doing what is needed in an interaction — for self and others —
given the situation and context.

Thus, it is about applying effective interactional skills and behaviours needed for a given situation.
This may include core conversational skills such as listening and asking questions, using energy and
rhythm, conflict handling, practice inclusive behaviours, and conversational adaptability. These
skills and behaviours are often taken for granted by those that are excel at it, and at times can feel
unattainable by those who struggle.

Some key characteristics of someone who demonstrates high Discipline in interactions include the
ability to:
∞ Switch effortlessly between modes of interaction (i.e. from email to speaking in person);
∞ Practice a fine balance of speaking and listening in a skilled manner;
∞ Manage the energy (i.e. emotions) emerging and required for the conversation to go well;
∞ Give time, space and full attention to others;
∞ Actively include others, especially when the conversation involves multiple people; and
∞ Clearly demonstrate respect for and interest in others, without exceptions.

There are literally hundreds of conversations that occur within an organization on a daily basis that
require discipline. These conversations fulfil specific needs from exploring purpose, mission and
strategy, propagating culture and values, delivering performance and growing capability to
managing relationships, offering support and providing care. These human interactions occur at
many levels from one-to-one to large scale. Each conversation occurs as informal or formal and
utilizes various modes of communication. There is an expectation that plans will be moved forward,
problems solved, employee experience elevated, decisions made, conflicts resolved, or relationships

Challenges with Discipline
1. Like the other dimensions of Human Fluency, the dimension of discipline is easier to talk
about than it is to carry out on a consistent basis. Discipline calls to mind the many times a
New Year’s resolution was made and quickly forgotten. In fact, according to U.S. News &
World Report, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions will fail by February.
2. Discipline also puts us in a position of vulnerability. Once we have taken a position on
something, or with someone, especially if it is a divergent position with someone we work
closely with, there is pressure and tension both on us personally as well as between us and
the other party. The temptation is to stay silent, pull back, and avoid the potential conflict.
3. The lack of discipline demonstrates to us and those around us that we are unreliable or lack
focus. If this occurs often enough, we find our self in a position where we do not even try
and we cannot be counted on to be there with or for others.
These challenges are ever present; however, they need not determine how we act in the current or
future interactions we care about.

Benefits of Discipline
The dimension of discipline allows us to focus on the priorities and principles we care about in our
personal and professional life. We are able to operate in each interaction based on principle rather
than emotion. This does not mean our interactions are without passion or emotion, but rather
these spring from the principles and values that demonstrate to others that we respect them and
we respect the relationship we have with them.

Operating with discipline means that we understand the real value and meaning of engagement and
we are willing to pursue genuine and authentic interaction with others. We will “stay the course”
without discouragement or distraction as we pursue a common purpose without sacrificing the

Effectively using discipline means that we will not allow multitasking to eclipse the attention we
need to be present in the interaction with another. As Simon Sinek famously tweeted, “There’s no
such thing as multitasking, there’s only doing multiple things badly.” By prioritizing the interaction,
we demonstrate to others that we are serious about the relationship and what we are pursuing

Each Human Fluency dimension has merit on its own, however, it is the interplay between them
where the magic happens. Human Fluency is an interactional process more than it is a technique. If
one has the ability to connect well (Depth), understand what is going on in the conversation
(Discernment) and subsequently uses the right skills and behaviours (Discipline), we can raise the
quality of almost any conversation and therefore influence the outcomes even if others are less able

Luciani, J. (2015). Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Retrieved from
Sinek, Simon (2010).

Human Fluency is a company based in The Netherlands and the USA. We believe that people and
organisations can fulfil their true purpose and make a greater contribution to this world when they
place effective human interaction and behaviour at the heart of what they do every day. We want to
help them become more fluent so they can accomplish meaningful and sustainable outcomes.