Your Perceptual Style acts as a filter between sensation and understanding. It is at the core of who you are, and it impacts your values, your beliefs, your feelings, and your psychology.
Each of us has one of six unique Perceptual Styles that is innate. Our individual Perceptual Style is literally hard wired and has grown with us as we’ve aged and developed. The decisions you make, the actions you take, and the directions you choose, are all influenced by your Perceptual Style. This is because our Perceptual Style defines our reality.
We often assume perceive and respond to the same objective reality and that there is one absolute “right.” Research implies that not only is that untrue, but perception is actually a filter applied to objective reality, resulting in natural differences between people.
Here is a brief look at the six Perceptual Styles (presented in alphabetical order):
• Activity: People with the Activity Perceptual Style jump into life with both feet. They fully engage with the confidence that the details will sort themselves out. Direction, ideas, and pursuits emerge as the result of constant action and involvement with others and their surroundings. They engage until some new possibility or interest emerges to capture their attention. They cultivate extensive networks of friends and associates.
• Adjustments: People with the Adjustments Perceptual Style see the world as an objective reality that can be known if they take the time to gather complete information about its intricacies and complexities. They pursue the acquisition and application of knowledge as the basis for their life experience. They enjoy sharing their knowledge with others and gathering new information from research or conversation. They have a strong sense of diplomacy and project a calm certainty.
• Flow: People with the Flow Perceptual Style are instinctive advocates for the natural rhythms of life. They see the complex connectivity among seemingly unrelated people, environments, and situations. They intuitively integrate and harmonize their actions within a broadly defined community that provides them and others with a sense of belonging. They honor the continuity between past, present, and future.
• Goals: People with the Goals Perceptual Style stride through life focused on the accomplishment of specific results and well-defined objectives. They experience a sense of urgency and clarity of purpose. They believe achievement is primary and method or process secondary – the end justifies the means. They evaluate all activities based on possible contribution towards the achievement of the results they expect. They thrive on competition and believe that life is a constant competition with winners and losers.
• Methods: People with the Methods Perceptual Style approach life in a practical, matter-of-fact manner. They focus on how things need to be done. They believe that ordered processes, properly followed, will produce the desired results. They will discern the best process or technique to apply to any specific situation in order to produce reliable, repeatable outcomes. They impose order and they believe that everyone prefers to use well known and proven methods.
• Vision: People with the Vision Perceptual Style approach life as a singular experience, a journey toward the future. They face the realities of a situation with serious intent, an optimistic perspective that a solution will be found, and confidence that if one is not, there are always other alternatives to explore. They intuitively see new directions, and actions are taken or dropped opportunistically based on a sense of future possibilities and potential. They are highly persuasive and easily convince others to follow their vision.
All six Perceptual Styles provide distinctly different experiences of the world. These differences result in a profound psychological and perceptual diversity that is the most important diversity there is because it helps explain the differences between people.
The six Perceptual Styles together describe the total range of perceptual reality. However, individually each Perceptual Style has access to only 1/6 of the total. Everyone has one Perceptual Style that is innate and unchanging. All six Perceptual Styles are evenly distributed in the world, and research confirms there is no difference in regards to culture, race, gender, or age. All six have unique strengths and challenges.
The Perceptual Styles displayed in the circle graph below show the relationships between them.
Although all six are psychologically unique, each Perceptual Style shares some similarities with neighboring styles. Each is also attracted and repelled by its opposite style, and each finds the “one-off styles” somewhat puzzling.
Now let’s take an in-depth look at each Perceptual Style.
Activity people develop an intense fascination with things that captivate their imagination, and they seek to share the excitement of their experience within their personal network. They are uninterested in things they find tedious or no longer hold their curiosity. They move rapidly from one experience to the next.
Activity people draw on knowledge and previous experience from seemingly unrelated sources to create original and distinctive approaches and results. They find more enjoyment in activities that include members of their personal network. Positive response from their personal network is what drives them, and to that end they pay attention to cultivating and sustaining that network.
Activity people bring energy and vitality to their activities and are often instrumental in getting things started. They believe that life should be fun as well as productive.
Activity people resist details and analysis. They get easily bored with repetitive and routine tasks. They are always ready to jump into something new, and they lose interest in activities that do not deliver attention-grabbing results. They quickly abandon anything they find boring and will wander off in search of other groups or activities that need energizing.
Activity people function best in settings that require interaction and allow them to get involved, share insight, tell stories, provide help, and communicate their perspective to others.
The actions of Adjustments people reflect their skills in collating, analyzing, and sharing what they know in useful ways. They create intricate systems for the storage and retrieval of their knowledge.
The greatest satisfaction for Adjustments people comes from being an information resource for others rather than only applying the information themselves. As such, they are good at explaining and describing complex, detailed, or technical information. Their thoroughness, patience with repetitive tasks, and desire for perfection allow them to spot where information is missing or fuzzy. They edit the written work of others effectively. They actively polish and hone their knowledge, their systems, and their processes to increase elegance and accuracy. They are at their best when given the time to do things carefully and systematically.
Time pressure, competition, and a drive for the bottom-line all violate their view of the world. They believe these conditions lead to a false sense of urgency and impulsive actions that are based on incomplete understanding. They are intrigued by the exploration of ideas when the exploration is characterized by careful and comprehensive analysis that leads to slow evolutionary change.
Because Adjustments people see an effective environment as a complex system that usually requires only incremental alterations and additions rather than wholesale rework, they modify and correct existing processes judiciously.
They create and sustain powerful but subtle relationships that form the glue of a community (family, friends, workgroup, social group, etc). They move smoothly and easily between daily events as their awareness emerges and recedes. They attend, in proper proportion, to events and people that require their attention, trusting that what needs to be done will be done.
Flow people facilitate the development of an environment that is comfortable, one that fosters and encourages people. When their environment shifts away from people centered community, they quietly influence its realignment, putting their personal needs aside if necessary to bring it back into harmony.
Flow people welcome new events that support their traditions and values. They use relational communities to gather and transmit informal information, after they have decided what to pass on and what to withhold. Their information sharing is so subtle that others experience the contribution Flow people make to create connection within the community but are often unaware of its source.
Flow people provide aid and assistance to the members of a community by serving as a listening post, encouraging development and growth, and empathizing with those who are struggling.
They are excellent administrators who interpret policy and procedure for their community. It is important to them that the value of the community is accurately perceived by outsiders. They are keepers of community history and tradition and provide continuity between the past, present, and future. They use the history of the community to keep it grounded.
The activities of Flow people are ultimately focused on support and maintenance of their community.
Goals people distrust complexity, subtlety, and solutions that evolve slowly over time. They believe that if a problem needs a solution, there is no time like the present to solve it.
Goals people approach the world with intense energy and have a high level of endurance that allows them to push themselves well after others have given up. They take action with personal intensity and urgency, and they are always anxious to get on to the next task even before the current one is complete. What needs to be done next is obvious to them, so they do not understand why others around them do not see and act on it.
Goals people are very outcome oriented and as such prefer to focus on the accomplishment of goals on which they can see immediate progress. They have no loyalty to current processes or methods and will abandon them quickly if progress towards a solution is slowing down and stagnating. They make high achievement demands on others but never more than they demand from themselves.
Goals people approach life as a competition, and if they find no other worthy competitor they will compete with themselves to see how far they can push themselves in terms of speed, quantity, and endurance.
Goals people are decisive in crises and adept at bringing structure out of chaotic situations. Their single-minded focus allows them to see the fundamental issues in problem situations, to determine the most important task, and to prioritize the steps necessary to accomplish their goal.
Methods people follow an ordered set of steps that when performed in a repeatable, logical sequence, inevitably end with the achievement of their objectives. They believe there is a correct method by which each problem, undertaking, or objective can be best handled. Discovering and applying this method is what drives them.
Once the desired result has been determined Methods people do not question it. Instead, they seek to find the steps that will produce the desired outcome with the most efficient use of time, money, and energy. They believe that failure of a solution to work is due to human error in the application of a correctly designed course of action.
Methods people analyze, manipulate, and apply facts. They use a rational application of facts to make decisions and solve problems, and they are confident that through this method they will arrive at the correct conclusion.
Methods people avoid becoming overly involved on a personal or emotional level and view both as distractions from the objectivity necessary to function effectively.
Methods people are matter-of-fact and consistent in high-pressure environments. Their ability to see structure and impose order allows them to help others function in the face of chaos and uncertainty.
Vision people face the realities of a situation with serious intent, an optimistic perspective that a solution will be found, and confidence that if one is not, there are always other alternatives to explore.
Vision people intuitively see new directions that others do not and make the most of this advantage by moving decisively. This ability to intuit new, useful directions and to take swift advantage of opportunities as they arise, gives them a strategic edge over others.
Vision people are unafraid of taking risks and accept that the possibility of high rewards carries with it an equal possibility of failure. However, they view failure as only a temporary setback. They love to play with, explore, and develop new ideas, and they examine all aspects, possible outcomes, and consequences without preconception or judgment.
Vision people change direction when progress towards achievement of their vision is slow or blocked, and as they move forward, they constantly tinker, experiment, and improvise with their actions in order to increase the likelihood of success. They are strongly committed to achieving their vision but are extremely flexible about the path taken to get there.
Vision people think non-linearly about problems, use their intuition, and try multiple possible solutions as they troubleshoot. When focused on an issue they work it to the exclusion of all else, often until they are exhausted.
Vision people are highly persuasive and easily convince others that the current topic is most important. They enlist others to join them with equal excitement and commitment.
Vision people see multiple successful scenarios, and they coordinate complex information and activities so that all efforts lead towards success.
The differences between people are often seen as the result of a lack of knowledge, bias, or stubbornness when in truth they are simply a matter of unchangeable biology. Instead of taking a stance that there is a right and wrong way to view things, its best to acknowledge that variations in opinion are due to biologically based perceptual differences.
People literally perceive the world differently, and this differing perception leads to different conclusions about what is important, how things should be done, and what is the “truth” of any situation.