The concept of Preferences for Interaction and what it means for your skill development

The concept of Preferences for Interaction and what it means for your skill development

Picture of Gary M Jordan Co-author of Unlock the Power of Your Perception and Your Talent AdvantagePerceptual Style Theory™ (PST) is about your Perceptual Style™. The key to understanding yourself is to understand your Perceptual Style. The name of the theory says it all!

Perceptual Style is the way you turn data received through your five senses into information that is meaningful to you. It is at the core of who you are, and it impacts your values, your beliefs, your feelings, and your psychology. The decisions you make, the actions you take, and the directions you choose in life are all influenced by your Perceptual Style because it defines reality for you.

We do not choose our Perceptual Style, it is innate, something we are born with. That is why knowing and understanding your Perceptual Style is very important. But we are more than our genetics.

Genetics establish the limits and boundaries of your potential, e.g., in PST terms, if you are Activity, it is not possible for you to perceive the world the way someone who is Goals does. But genetics are not the only factor. Your environment and developmental experience determine how your potential is realized in the world.

It turns out that the name of the theory doesn’t say it all! We are all composites of our life experiences in addition to our Perceptual Style and unique personality traits.

To understand fully what PST has to say about you and the way you behave in the world, we must add the developmental dimension to the innate. In PST we call this aspect of the theory Preferences for Interaction (PFI).

Before we dive into Preferences for Interaction, let me provide a little background about skill development.

We are born with the natural capacity for a wide range of behaviors that are innately associated with our Perceptual Style. How we impact the environment around us and how it impacts us determines which of those capacities develop into recognizable skills and which continue to be only an undeveloped capacity or potential.

This development from capacity into skill requires a complex interaction of Permission to perform the skill, Protection from catastrophic failure as the fledgling skill develops and gets better with practice, and Power that comes from the experience of recognition and reward for a skill well mastered.

Skills for which you don’t get Permission or Protection don’t develop.

Skill development is a highly interactive process. Permission, Protection, and the recognition that leads to the experience of Power all come from interacting with others. Early on in life the most important others we interact with are our parents and other caretaking family members. Later in life it includes other influential adults such as teachers, ministers, mentors etc.

Skills can be grouped into clusters that reflect similarities such as social skills and academic skills. The skills that get Permission or Promotion depend a great deal on the values of those important and influential adults in our childhood. Skills they do not value will not get the Permission and Protection they need to develop.

For example, my father was a physician at a time when it was not necessary to advertise and it was, in fact, considered unprofessional to do so. As a result, I received no Permission and no Protection around skills that have to do with sales, marketing, negotiating, business networking, etc.

In PST this cluster of skills falls into the category we call Transactions and is one of the three Preferences for Interaction. The other two are Operations and Resources. We all perform skills from all three PFI, but we have a differing preference for each cluster.

So, I have the potential for skills from the cluster of Transactions skills that belong to the Activity Perceptual Style, but because they received no Permission or Protection, they remain undeveloped and are still awkward and uncomfortable for me to perform.

On the other end of the spectrum, my cluster of Resources skills received a lot of Permission and Protection, and I can Resource you all day. My profession as a psychologist is grounded in Resource skills.

So, what are Transaction, Operation, and Resource skills?

In PST they are the names we have given to the three different types of human interaction that reflect different clusters of similar skills.

You do all three on a regular basis, but you have a distinct order in your preference for some types of interactions over others. Each of us develops a distinct ordered Preference for Interaction during our childhood that stays with us throughout our adult life. You prefer one category of interactions more than the other two and one less than the other two.

The degree of preference can change as you grow and develop your natural skills, but once established the order stays pretty much the same throughout your life. As I described above, preference comes from a complex mix of Permission and Protection from influential caretakers. Additionally, your PFI order strongly influences the kinds of skills and behavioral roles you’ve become good at.

You demonstrate your preference by naturally gravitating towards activities associated with one category over the other two.

If Transactions is your favorite, you might be that person who loves social gatherings because they offer so many opportunities for bargaining, convincing, settling arguments, mentoring, selling, networking, and persuading others. These are interactions that involve behaviors and skills that are focused on achieving agreement through the exchange of information.

If Operations is your thing, your interactions probably revolve around getting things accomplished, planning, organizing, delegating, troubleshooting, and managing/overseeing. These are interactions that involve behaviors and skills that are focused on doing and accomplishing – answering the questions of “what?”, “how?”, and “when?”

Finally, if you prefer Resource interactions you may find yourself spending a lot of time researching, teaching, counseling, sharing, advising, coaching, defining strategies, and connecting people with each other. These are interactions that involve behaviors and skills that are focused on enabling yourself or others by providing information, action, or support.

It’s the unique combination of your PFI and Perceptual Style that distinguishes you from others who share your Perceptual Style.

The degree of preference for each category varies from person to person, but there is always an ordered preference. What’s important to remember is that your natural preference isn’t right or wrong, it’s just yours!

Identifying these preferences will help you understand yourself, the things you do, and the things you avoid in a different light. Examining the various interaction categories will also stretch your understanding of other people and their different points of view, which is key to improving communication and building stronger relationships.

In conclusion, Perceptual Style Theory's concept of Preferences for Interaction helps us to understand how the skills we possess and use in our daily lives are developed and influenced by the interactions we have with others.

Our Perceptual Style, innate to us at birth, determines the potential for certain skill clusters, but it is our early life experiences and the Permission, Protection, and Power provided by the important adults in our lives that ultimately shape the development of those skills.

Understanding our own Preferences for Interaction can help us to identify areas where we may need to seek out new experiences or seek out support in order to develop skills that may not have been encouraged or protected in our early lives. By becoming aware of these preferences, we can work to become more well-rounded individuals, better able to navigate and interact with the world around us.

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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


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