It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that there are many factors that play a role in the success of intimate relationships.
One factor that people perhaps do not consider as often as other factors is our thinking styles. Compatibility in thinking styles plays a major role in the success of your relationships! Are you matched for thinking styles with your partner?
What are thinking styles?
Thinking styles are about how we like to approach and solve challenging situations in our life. It’s important for you to realize that they’re not abilities – something you can or cannot do – but rather, that they’re preferences indicating how you like to approach your life’s challenges. You are capable of employing all thinking styles, but in daily life, you prefer to approach issues in one way more than another. You can think about your thinking styles like a profile – they’re all present to some extent but you use some much more often than others.
3 thinking styles are of particular importance in relationships
Bob Sternberg distinguishes 13 styles of thinking. But in this article, let’s just concentrate on the three styles that are most relevant to relationships:
- executive, and
We’ll look at the way people think and act when they employ the legislative, executive, and judicial style, and how their thinking style influences relationships.
In the following descriptions, which is the thinking style you most identify with?
Legislative people are independent
If you have a legislative thinking style, you like to come up with your own ideas. You like to take your own individual, sometimes unique perspective.
You don’t like to be told what to do. You want to venture out on your own.
You tend to like activities that give you a free range to exercise your imaginations. You do not much like multiple-choice, short-answer, or other fill-in-the-blank kinds of activities that are structured by others.
Executive people like guidelines
If you have an executive thinking style, you like to work within guidelines. You enjoy to be given a structure and then to work within that structure.
You are not seeking to be imaginative in everything you do—rather, you want to excel within whatever the boundaries are that societies, schools, workplaces, or other structures set for you.
You like multiple-choice or short-answer tests, because such tests give you a chance to show your knowledge and to show that you are ready for the next challenge.
Judicial people are critical
If you employ a judicial thinking style, you like to evaluate, judge, and critique. You tend to be critical. You look at what others say and do and tend to assess whether it meets your own internalized standards.
You often use your evaluations of others to improve your own work.
You like to give critiques and comment on what is wrong with the way things are done. You prefer evaluative essays or presentations to multiple-choice or short-answer.
When you are with someone who is judicial in style, you may feel like you are being judged—because you are.
How do thinking styles influence your relationship?
No one is purely legislative, executive, or judicial. We all are some mix. But people do have their preferences, and these preferences can have a significant impact on your relationship.
Let’s look and see how two people interact when they have the same or different thinking styles:
Two legislative partners
Two legislative people tend to enjoy each other’s company because they are both constantly coming up with ideas.
The relationship is stimulating and also may give rise to all kinds of new adventures that neither individual would have thought of on their own. The relationship is rarely if ever boring.
But two legislative people and can get into trouble when
(a) their ideas conflict and
(b) both are quite sure that their idea is the better one.
Legislative people sometimes feel they have to fight for their ideas, and if the partners in the couple disagree with each other, they may end up fighting!
Another problem two legislative people may face is deciding who is actually in charge of getting things done. Sometimes, they are better at coming up with ideas than at executing on them.
Two executive partners
Two executive people feel comfortable with each other. They both tend to conform to societal and other guidelines and are eager to work to excel within those guidelines.
They are not seeking to overturn the sailboat. Rather, they are seeking to sail as rapidly and as far as they can within whatever sailboat society gave them.
Their biggest risk is that if things change, neither may be inclined to change the structure within which they work.
They simply don’t gravitate toward novelty, but sometimes novelty gravitates toward them, whether they like it or not.
And if their routine becomes stale, it may take them a long time—too long—to notice it.
Two judicial partners
Two judicial people can have a lot of fun together. They like, for example, to go to dinner parties and then critique the behavior of the others who were there.
Or they may jointly critique the political scene or the scene in one or both of their places of work. They may go on for hours saying what is wrong with everyone else.
Their risk is that they turn their judicial proclivity on each other. In that case, they may start, metaphorically, tearing each other apart.
One legislative and one executive partner
A legislative person and an executive person can be a good match. The legislative person tends to be the person who comes up with the ideas and the executive person tends to be the one who executes them.
So, they are a good match, because each partner specializes in a different set of tasks.
These couples too, though, may have challenges. The legislative person may become bored or frustrated with the executive person. The legislator may feel lack of stimulation or challenge with their partner.
The executive partner, on the other hand, may come to resent the legislative partner always trying to be the decider while they are left to execute and, metaphorically, do the “dirty work.”
One legislative and one judicial partner
A legislative and a judicial person also can be a good match, because the judicial person will be quick to find the flaws in the legislative partner’s ideas and plans.
Just because someone is legislative does not mean that their ideas are all good. The judicial partner can help the legislator distinguish their better from their worse ideas.
Where a problem may arise is when the legislator feels that the judicial partner is there to undermine them. That is, the legislator comes up with the ideas; the judicial partner shoots them down. That can cause resentment.
And the judicial person may feel like their contribution is not appreciated because it is the legislator rather than they who comes up with most of the ideas.
One executive and one judicial partner
An executive partner and a judicial partner also may do well, as the judicial partner can help the executive partner be more efficient or effective in their execution. They may point out the need for tuning up the way things are done or even of changing course to get things done.
Where these partners may have trouble is in coming up with the ideas to execute in the first place. They may take their ideas from others and then find out that the ideas are not a good fit to them.
Are you matched for thinking styles with your partner?
Identify your style (and that of your partner) to make your relationship work more smoothly.
Did you recognize your style and that of your partner in the descriptions above? If not, we have a questionnaire for you to download to help you diagnose your thinking style.
Being aware of your thinking styles, you and your partner cannot only build on your strengths, but you can also anticipate problems or use your thinking styles as a basis to work out solutions to your issues that work well for both of you.
For example, if you are both legislative thinkers and both tend to think in terms of big ideas without focusing on their execution, it's important to sit down together and develop a plan to bring those ideas to life. Creating step-by-step plans that outline the necessary actions can help you stay focused and accomplish your shared goals, whether it's realizing your dreams or simply organizing your daily routines.
As your understanding of each other and yourselves deepens, navigating the challenges that arise within your relationship becomes increasingly effortless.