Navigating Perceptual Styles: From Old Friends to New Acquaintances

Navigating Perceptual Styles: From Old Friends to New Acquaintances

Picture of Gary M Jordan Co-author of Unlock the Power of Your Perception and Your Talent AdvantageI have a close friend whose Perceptual Style, like mine, is Activity. He was my college roommate, and we have known each other for 50 years. He lives about 1,000 miles away from me, but he visits me once or twice a year, and we escape to a rustic country cabin in Central Texas to catch up with each other's lives.

When we get together, the stories start flying fast and furiously. I tell one and think of ten more that branch off the one I am telling. Inevitably, one of my stories reminds him of a similar one (or something else entirely), and then it's his turn. We can go on like this non-stop for several days.

Recently, I met someone who was part of a group I would spend about a week with. Shortly after meeting, I found myself in a familiar situation as with my college roommate, or so I thought.

My new acquaintance told me a story highlighting an experience he'd had, and it reminded me of a similar experience. When he was finished, I chimed in with my story, expecting to engage in a lively exchange much like I described with my friend above.

Interestingly, my story was met with a response that indicated my new acquaintance experienced me telling my story as a personal 'one up' challenge. As you can guess, the interaction deteriorated a bit from there. I quickly took action to smooth over the accidental disconnect.

There are many ways to understand what happened, but the most constructive for me is to view it through the lens of Perceptual Style Theory™. Perceptual Style Theory explains, at a general level, what is likely to happen when any Perceptual Style interacts with another, whether they are the same, Neighbors, Opposites, or One-Offs.

With my old college roommate, two people reveled in the joy that comes from the connection that only two people with the same Perceptual Style can experience.

We didn't have to explain ourselves to each other, we understood each other's thinking patterns often completing each other's sentences, and we could really let our guards down without fear of being misunderstood.

It is, of course, possible that our ease with each other was due to the length of time we have been friends, but we have interacted in this way since the very first day we met each other 50 years ago.

The interaction with my new acquaintance was a classic example of the confusion that occurs when Neighbor Perceptual Styles, in this case, Activity and Vision, interact in seemingly similar, but actually fundamentally different, ways.

People with the Activity Perceptual Style don't just want to tell you about their experience, they want you to have the same experience they had. Stories, detailed stories with lots of context, are the way they attempt to give others their experience.

For people with the Activity Perceptual Style, stories are a way to say: "I know what you are talking about because here is a story that is very similar to yours. As I tell it to you, you will realize that I have grasped the experience you wanted me to when you told me your story."

People with the Vision Perceptual Style don't usually tell stories just for fun. They tell stories for a specific purpose, such as driving home a point, influencing action, or establishing credibility.

So, on our initial meeting, my new acquaintance and I experienced the disconnect that can happen when an Activity person hears a story as an invitation to share experiences and a Vision person shares a story to make a point and establish credibility.

During the rest of the week together, as he shared additional stories, I held back from my natural tendency to chime in with similar stories and instead acknowledged the points he made with curiosity and confirmation.

I tell this story, as an Activity Perceptual Style person always does, to share with you my experience in hopes that you will learn something from it that is useful to you: People with different Perceptual Styles perform similar behaviors for very different reasons.

Without a framework such as Perceptual Style Theory to make sense of the disconnect and conflict that can occur in communication between two different Perceptual Styles, it is easy to deteriorate into destructive blaming and hurtful accusations.

Once I realized what was happening in the situation with my new acquaintance, it was easy to get along with him, and I found him to be a very interesting person to be around.

So, next time you find yourself surprised when the response you get is not the one you expected, perhaps it is not because one of you is wrong, or stupid, or crazy. Maybe you just have different Perceptual Styles!

Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

To find out more about the services we have available to help you find the success you want and deserve go to

© Vega Behavioral Consulting, Ltd., All Rights Reserved


About Dr. Gary M. Jordan, Ph.D.

Gary Jordan, Ph.D., has over 35 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

For additional information on Dr. Gary Jordan, please click here

Add Comment:
Please login or register to add your comment or get notified when a comment is added.
1 person will be notified when a comment is added.