The reading level for this article is All Levels
Thereâ€™s no one factor or theory that can fully explain why, how, and with whom we fall in love, but the Perceptual Styles Theory (PST) can help individuals understand the challenges weâ€™re likely to face in different types of relationships. This perspective can be invaluable in predicting communication issues, and in smoothing out issues when they do arise.
There are four basic Perceptual Style (PS) experiences in love, based on couples whose styles are the same, neighboring, one-off, and opposite:
1. Birds of a feather flock together
2. Since weâ€™re neighbors, lets be friends
3. Opposites attract.
4. I understand the words you are speaking, but I have no idea what you mean.
In Part 1 of this article series, my partner Gary described the issues typical of the first two types of couples. In this article, weâ€™ll explore the second two.
For each PS there is a direct opposite, and each has opposite views of the world. Opposites attract because our perception of the world is, by nature, incomplete. Individuals with opposite styles are often attracted to one another because they provide each other with a sense of completeness. Being with someone who does easily and well what you struggle to do with mediocre results can be an exhilarating experience. The problem is that after a while, their inability to do it your way becomes a problem.
I have a close friend whose PS is Methods, while her husbandâ€™s is Activity. She wants to have a plan and a schedule and know exactly where they are going before they start out. He, on the other hand, dives into things head first and figures them out as he goes. Both of these approaches work, but neither is the best in all situations.
What are the issues? He sometimes wishes she would just once be spontaneous, and she wishes he would do a little more planning and pay attention to detail. Fortunately for them, they work on balancing their approaches and have come to an agreement on the situations in which each of them takes the lead. They focus on giving each other space to be who they are in their marriageâ€"they donâ€™t spend time trying to change each other.
The tricky thing about opposites is that what first attracts youâ€"and what you feel is so complimentary because it fills a need you haveâ€"can quickly turn into what drives you crazy. If neither party is willing to give, this can turn ugly fast. But it doesnâ€™t have to be that way. You canâ€™t change your partnerâ€™s PS, so the challenge is imply to appreciate them for what they do and love them for who they are.
I understand the words you are speaking, but I have no idea what they mean
When a PS is not identical to yours, nor is it a direct neighbor or an opposite style, we call it a â€˜one-off.â€™ Every PS has two styles that are one-off, and relationships between two people these styles can often be stormy and unpredictableâ€"habitual modes of interaction donâ€™t work, attempts at humor fall flat, perspectives are at odds, and explanations or descriptions of the same event are likely to be strikingly different.
So what draws people into â€˜one-offâ€™ relationships? Usually it is a shared interest or activityâ€"you both love singing and meet in a community chorus, you both play tennis and meet at tennis lessons, you both love to watch football, etc.
One-offs can be attractive initially because they are so different from you that they seem exotic and fascinating. But as soon as the initial fascination wanes, it is really very hard to find a common ground to build a relationship on. In all the years weâ€™ve been using PST in coaching, weâ€™ve never known a couple with one-off styles to stay in a lasting relationship.
Does that mean itâ€™s impossible? Probably notâ€"but if you canâ€™t find common ground in your relationship (or if you feel like you are in relationship with someone from a different planet), itâ€™s best to be advised that itâ€™s going to take a whole lot of work on the part of both you and your partner to keep your relationship together.