Essential Relationship Style Theory

“An understanding of each person’s personal
preferences . . . is a key ingredient in the crucial attitude of
mutual respect.”
Daniel Eckstein, Ph.D. Adler Professional School,

Relationship compatibility is dependent on many factors. One of the most important is the style with which we approach all relationships and partnership in particular.

We can assess our style-compatibility with present or potential partners by highlighting our personal, unconsciously held, relationship predispositions. These are the styles we adopt as we come into contact with others.

While there are potentially an infinite variety of predispositions, four in particular have been generally recognized as significant. They are:

Although they may look fairly superficial, in fact, at their most fundamental, these predispositions amount to nothing less than a survival strategy.

This helps to explain how conflicts arise and intensify: severe clashes become inevitable if two people are attempting to follow incompatible survival strategies.

Fortunately, understanding the predispositions also offers avenues to the resolution of difficulties whose roots lie in our unconscious needs. By taking our own and our partners’ predispositions into consideration, we can learn to work together more productively.

By contrast, if we remain unconscious of these predispositions we can only continue to run into inexplicable and irresolvable conflicts. These are the battles where logic and reason fly out of the window and we perceive our partner as being unworkable or worse.

The DRC Personal Predisposition Assessment Test is designed to help you and your work and love partners identify your individual predispositions. It thus brings into consciousness one aspect of your unconscious relationship dynamics.

Once they are revealed, it is tempting to expect that we and/or our partners will change our predispositions to some more amenable combination.

However, these needs are established very early in life and are not especially susceptible to change. It is therefore not useful to point to them as blameworthy, any more than one’s height or eye-color is blameworthy.

Rather, by using them as valuable information regarding our partners’ needs, we can ensure that our planning and negotiating offer a much better chance of a win-win result.

The Four Predispositions and How to Work with them

The four predispositions that affect our interrelationships are:

Comfort. Those predisposed to seek comfort desire immediate gratification and will often sacrifice achievement because it entails the stress of responsibility and delayed reward. They are unlikely to take significant risks.

If you are predisposed to comfort, find small ways to take care of yourself and they’ll eventually grow into big ways. Try to discover what it is that keeps you pinned to that chair – is it fear? a sense of inadequacy? There’s nothing wrong with this but it may not get you what you want.

To work with a partner predisposed to comfort, don’t expect too much. Encourage small steps and try to make things as easy as possible without crossing the line into doing it for them. Urge them to make suggestions, even if you have to push them a bit, and listen to their comments.


Pleasing. Those who approach life with a predominantly pleasing style are good at tuning into what others want and need. They will allow their actions to be determined by those other needs and essentially put their happiness into someone else’s hands. They fear rejection and will contort their sense of integrity to avoid upsetting anyone. They tend to be drawn to very demanding partners whose approval they can never win, no matter how hard they try.

If you are predisposed to pleasing, beware of putting up a false front while trying to make things look good even when they’re not. Work on building a sense of yourself and what you like rather than going along with someone else.

To work with a partner predisposed to pleasing, be ready to applaud them and reward them for their willingness to meet your needs. At the same time, let them know they won’t suffer for expressing their own needs and for revealing what they really feel. If it genuinely pleases you for them to do this, they and you will win both ways.


Control. Those predisposed to control will seek to establish control over others and/or over themselves. As total control is rarely if ever achievable, they will tend to see the rest of the world as resistant. Their efforts to control will also elicit resistance from those around them. They will tend to be rigid in their own self-control, reducing their ability to be spontaneous, creative and to go with the flow.

If you are predisposed to control, watch out that your self-distancing behavior doesn’t isolate you or force you into power struggles. Watch, too, for the pleasing companion who may look as if they’re going along with you while actually building up a powder keg of hidden resentment. Try to develop a more open style and risk being criticized.

To work with a partner predisposed to control, give them lots of space and so avoid forcing them into a rigid stance you both might regret. There’ll be lots of opportunity to differ, so pick your fights with care. Ask them how they feel and then give them lots of time and encouragement to work it out safely. Show them overt respect and cooperation whenever you can.


Superiority. Not to be confused with Control, those motivated by a predisposition toward superiority have a need to be right, to be useful and to be competent. They also want to do what they do better than anyone else. The result in relationships is that they tend to compete with their partners yet have an inner uncertainty about their true value.

If you are predisposed to superiority, you are at risk of overburdening yourself by taking on more than you can handle. You might also be chronically distressed because of the mistakes and missed opportunities you see all around you. Try to lighten up on yourself: you aren’t responsible for putting everything right even if you can see what’s wrong with it. Do only that which is reasonable.

To work with a partner predisposed to superiority, reassure them by telling them they’re right whenever you can legitimately do so. Thank them for their contribution and they will make space for yours. Their fear of being wrong may deter them from trying new things, so encourage them, perhaps by leading them yourself.

I hope this information has been helpful to you. If you would like to explore the possibility that Dynamic Relationship Coaching may be of benefit to your love or work partnership, please complete the form below.