Do Opposites Really Attract?

“When you lose, never lose the lesson.” – Dalai Lama

Last Wednesday we got into a heated discussion (during a date downtown after not having seen each other for over a week). You’d think that this was supposed to be a pleasant and relaxing time. Instead, the lack of face-to-face communication and use of texting over a week or two caused some friction.

Just like many debates where emotions are involved, the disagreement started with something small on the surface. However, “something small” always seems to be tied to a deeper wound in the subconscious, and this leads to escalating conflict. After a while, David was tired of being angry so he literally flipped a switch and chilled out. Now this may seem fine and dandy, but on a deeper level (energy-wise), David disconnected from Lindsey, who was still emotional. This made it even worse and the negativity continued! Basically, David was feeling like Lindsey was being irrational and Lindsey thought David was being a jerk. Before all hell broke loose, we had to stop and talk logically about what had unfolded before us.

If you can master the pause button during your arguments, do it and talk about it calmly. Don’t just talk to defend your actions and words – help each other figure out why there is tension between you in the first place. We tried to do this and came up with an interesting theory that will definitely help us to prevent future conflict and to appreciate each other more. Essentially, we figured out that the cause of tension was not miscommunication, but a lack of awareness and appreciation for our own personality styles.

Are you familiar with the “DISC” personality profiles? Each letter represents a set of personality characteristics. Lindsey has an S in her personality (combination of ISC or ICS). In this case, her S represented the following characteristics: supportive, somewhat submissive, and quite sentimental. David has a C in his personality (combination of IDC or ICD). In this case, his C represented the following characteristics: wanting to appear competent, constantly calculating, and predominantly contemplating, rather than communicating.

Therefore, one of us was firing off seemingly emotional, irrational, and/or irrelevant statements and the other was apparently harsh, cold, and/or uninterested. The truth is that no one was perceiving the absolute truth. The truth is really just a version of the actual TRUTH made up by our mind and its perspective: Lindsey was not actually irrational, and David was not actually insensitive. That was a mere reflection of reality as filtered through our perspectives.

When dealing with the S type in future conflict, David figured that he should use kind and gentle behaviour because they need supportive environments to work their best. S types also need time to recover and time to adjust and think through conflict. Lindsey said she needed time to process our disagreement. If pushed, S types have the potential to withdraw and turn into turtles (not want to debate) for fear of being hurt or damaging a relationship. Overall, an S type person would benefit from being more self-empowered (hence why Lindsey is learning Zen stuff), practicing public speaking, and using their emotional intelligence strength.

Lindsey realized that when dealing with a C type in conflict, it is important to realize that they will need to hear the best answers because they believe they’ve thought and researched everything through. Stimulate them to think through situations from other angles. Don’t try to appeal to their emotions at the outset, because they are task-oriented. Be optimistic, because C types tend to worry more than others. Overall, a C type person would benefit from learning to appreciate the way others think and process. C people need to be more positive and live in the moment (hence why David is learning Zen stuff).

Remember, these were just the aspects of our personalities that came out during that particular conflict and do not represent our personalities as a whole.

The interesting thing to take away from this is that we literally PAUSED our debate and broke it down in the heat of the moment. We turned a conflict into a learning moment that could really help strengthen our relationship. Sustaining relationships takes a lot of patience and virtue and we’re glad that we tried to understand ourselves better and appreciate each other’s differences, instead of hating on each other that day.

How have your interactions with people (who have opposing personalities) helped you grow? Hook us up on our Relationship Zen Facebook group!