thinking styleHave you ever felt like you would lose your mind when trying to communicate with a co-worker or family member?

See if either of these scenarios sound familiar…

Scenario #1

You to colleague: “Who should attend the quarterly meeting?”

Colleague: “You, me, Bob, Lisa so she can take notes, Tim. Wait, maybe inviting Tim will broaden the scope too much. Scratch Tim. We should probably have someone from marketing. Who would be the best fit? Greg has a lot of insight but he’s being pulled in a lot of directions”…and the monologue continues for…awhile.

While your colleague is talking you may very well be thinking, “Criminy! I just wanted a list of people to invite. I don’t really need to know your every thought. You sound indecisive and as if maybe you really don’t know the answer. Maybe I should have asked someone else.”

Scenario #2

You to colleague: “Who should attend the quarterly meeting?”

Colleague: Colleague says nothing for what seems like an eternity. It may be just 30 seconds or a minute, but it seems like forever. You begin to wonder if he heard you. The silence is uncomfortable so you rephrase the question and start offering your own ideas.

In the first scenario you may just want them to get to the point. In the second, just ANSWER THE QUESTION. What in the name of all that is efficient is wrong with these people?

Nothing at all is wrong with them. It’s simply a matter of the different ways people process thoughts.

In Scenario #1 the colleague is a “Talk to Thinker”. This is a person who needs to vocalize their thoughts in order to come to the best conclusion. It’s not indecisiveness you’re hearing, it’s simply the thought process they’re going through. They throw an idea out and then brainstorm aloud about whether the idea has merit.

In Scenario #2 the colleague is a “Think to Talker”. They, too, are mulling over the best answer, they’re just doing it silently, in their own head. When they finally speak it will be to share their best answer. If you yammer on through the silence, you may just be an annoying distraction that will cause them to need more time.

Which one are you?

If you are a Talk to Thinker, you’d do well to let people know that.  Simply saying “I’m going to think aloud here for a minute.  That okay with you?” is enough to help the other person understand.

If you’re a Think to Talker, also let the other person know.  Say “I’m going to think for a few seconds to formulate my thoughts, alright?” They know you heard and understood the question and will allow you the quiet time you need.

Recognizing, understanding, and accepting these thought-processing style differences is vital to communicating comfortably.