Jung and Freud recognised that the human mind is based upon opposite forces

Paradox Theory extends that principle to include complementary and paradoxical forces and applies it to specific traits.

According to Paradox Theory, our lives involve dealing with a series of paradoxes, within each paradox is a relationship between two categories of traits, “Gentle” traits and “Dynamic” traits.

Paradox graph

The Paradox Graph report provides a graphical view of the person’s behaviour relative to each of 12 paradoxical traits.

This is a key proven psychological concept to better understand the human psyche and predict a person’s behaviour under normal conditions as well as under stress conditions.  Paradox Theory includes a series of principles that can be applied to the individual psyche as well as organisational dynamics, allowing far greater insights into team performance, organisational values and cultural fit.

Other assessments place complementary traits on opposite sides of a bipolar scale; for example, they place frankness and diplomacy on opposite sides of the same scale indicating that you are either frank or diplomatic, or somewhere in between; this fails to acknowledge the possibility that you could be both or neither.

Paradox theory – the four behaviour quadrants

By measuring traits and organising them according to paradox theory we gain insight into the manner in which each person manages each paradox.

Thus we gain a wealth of understanding about an individual’s behaviour patterns that is well beyond the traditional bipolar system of measurement.

Being strong on both of the traits that make up the paradox is termed “balanced versatility”, i.e. our range of behaviour is able to extend to both the Gentle and Dynamic aspects of the paradox, meaning we will have an exceptional capability and means of fulfilment related to that aspect of our lives.

If the range of behaviour extends only to the ‘dynamic’ aspect of the paradox it is called “aggressive imbalance“, similarly if the range of behaviour extends only to the ‘gentle’ aspect of the paradox it is called “passive imbalance“. In either case, our behaviour will have some counter-productive tendencies and we will experience lesser fulfilment.

A low range of behaviour on both aspects is called “balanced deficiency“, which again have some counter-productive tendencies and/or lack of fulfilment.

If these traits were used in a traditional bipolar method or measurement, it would erroneously assume an “either-or” relationship between frankness and diplomacy because the bipolar structure implies an either-or relationship. It fails to consider the option that the person could be neither, both, or independently varying degrees of each. A score toward the middle of the bipolar scale would not distinguish between a good communicator (balanced versatility) and a poor communicator (balanced deficiency).

It is precisely this relationship between the independently varying complementary traits that illuminates new dimensions of our understanding of the individual’s behaviour patterns.

Harrison Assessments Paradox Theory

Example: Communication Traits

Diplomatic and Frank are a paradoxical pair of traits measured within HATS. Frank is the Dynamic aspect of communication and Diplomatic is the Gentle aspect.
paradox theory

  • A person who is able to be both frank and diplomatic at the same time (“balanced versatility”) will be an effective communicator as far as resolving everyday work relationship issues – Forthright Diplomacy.
  • A person who tends to be very frank but lacking in diplomacy will be quite blunt – an example of an “aggressive imbalance” because frankness is the Dynamic trait and diplomacy is the Gentle trait – Blunt.
  • Someone who tends to be very diplomatic and at the same time extremely lacking in frankness, will tend to be evasive. This pattern can also indicate a greater tendency toward “passive-aggressive” behaviour and is also likely to accumulate miscommunications and misunderstanding with others as well as create a greater distance between oneself and others. This pattern of evasiveness is considered a “passive imbalance” because diplomacy is the Gentle trait and frankness is the Dynamic trait.
  • The fourth possible pattern in which the person is lacking in both frankness and diplomacy is “balanced deficiency“. This pattern also indicates difficulties with people in that the person will tend to avoid both types of communication; inevitably this leads to problems in relationships for which the person will be less equipped to deal with through communication – Avoids Communication.
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