We are all intuitively aware of what we don’t do, and we admire people who can do those things. So, initially, people who seem opposite from us can be incredibly attractive. This is especially true for people with a Perceptual Style that is opposite of yours. There are three of these Perceptual Style combinations – Activity & Methods, Adjustments & Vision, and Flow & Goals.
With time, after the initial attraction to someone with a Perceptual Style opposite of yours, one of two things happen—either you develop a complementary relationship, with each of you valuing what the other person does that you don’t; or you start trying to change the other person to do things your way.
A great place to observe how opposites both attract and repel each other is in couple’s therapy. One good example from my days in private practice involved an Activity man and a Methods woman. They arrived in the consulting room, barely able to talk to each other without anger and vitriol.
“She’s changed,” accused the man, “when I first met her, she was a dream come true for me. She helped me get organized, work more effectively on a schedule, and plan out my day. But now, she has become a taskmaster. She doesn’t know how to have fun, doesn’t understand my jokes, over-plans, and over-schedules everything. Even our vacations are tied to a tight schedule. I just wish she would lighten up!”
“Oh, he should talk!” she countered, “He used to bring me such joy. He helped me discover that life is not all about accomplishment and to laugh, cut up, and act silly. But now, he has turned into a clown. Everything is a joke to him. He doesn’t understand that life is more than just sitting around talking all the time and having a good time. He makes light of the things I accomplish. I just wish he would be serious about life.”
What initially attracted this couple to each other is now the very thing driving a wedge between them and threatening their marriage. The differences in each of their “hows” destroyed their “what.”
On the other hand, Lynda-Ross has a good friend (and client), Jim, who is Adjustments, and his wife, Nancy, is Vision. They’ve had lots of ups and downs over the years, as most people do—injuries, family squabbles, illness, work issues, school decisions, etc. Yet, they’ve raised three great kids and have a strong marriage. What’s the key to their success? During dinner with them one evening, they shared their perspective. (Spoiler alert: they lean on each other’s strengths.)
“I’m the planner of the family,” Jim said. Two of their boys rolled their eyes and smiled. “Okay,” laughed Jim, “maybe I enjoy planning more than anyone else in the family, so it’s lucky for the rest of you!”
“I’m happy you do,” said Nancy. “I don’t enjoy it, and I don’t enjoy doing all the research you do. Thanks to you, I don’t have to! I’d much rather be the idea person and let you take the lead on sorting out the details.”
The two sons laughed out loud. “It’s so true,” said one. “Mom is the ‘let’s try this’ person, and Dad is the ‘wait a second, let’s think about that’ person.” Everyone smiled.
Jim and Nancy found a way to balance their strengths. They make big decisions together after considering what each of them has brought to the process. They are openly appreciative of what the other person does that they don’t. They’ve learned over the years to insist on agreement regarding the “what” of their lives, but they are willing to compromise on the “how.” That’s an example of Opposites who make it work.
There are no steadfast Perceptual Style rules about who you will choose to love, who you will pick as your friends, or who will drive you crazy. But Perceptual Style will help you understand the differences between you and the people in your life. And it will help you minimize disconnects, bridge gaps, and find true connection with the people who matter to you.
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About Dr. Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D.
Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 27 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology – Berkeley. He is co-creator of Perceptual Style Theory, a revolutionary psychological assessment system that teaches people how to unleash their deepest potentials for success. He’s a partner at Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in helping people discover their true skills and talents. For more information, visit https://www.YourTalentAdvantage.com.
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