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How We Naturally Think Can Be a Source of Conflict...

(originally published June 27, 2019)

You like to think specific ways. You may or may not already understand that, but you are, in part, a product of your preferred thinking style(s). While any of us can work to think outside our natural thinking we tend to, most of the time, simply think as who we are.

That's great news. You don't often have to think about how you think, and that's a handy time-saver when you're in the Taco Bell drive-through or trying to finish a project at work.

But sometimes our natural thinking can bang up against other people's natural thinking.

That's when it's extremely handy to have an understanding of how we tend to think!So, for example, some people tend to think in terms of ideas, possibilities, concepts, pictures, even vision. Such folk get fired up by the big picture view, and bring enormous energy to the discussion of what is possible and interesting (and even fun) - a process often called brainstorming. Facts and details take a back seat to what COULD happen, what is really interesting and new. Emergenetics, my thinking assessment tool of choice, calls such thinking conceptual. Others call people that do this crazy. No, not really. OK, sometimes - because they don't really get this kind of thinking.

Others are all about analysis, outcomes, summaries, implications. Such folk like to make quick and lucid decisions, focusing on what seems reasonable and logical. They seek optimal solutions, want the best data quickly and in summary form, and get very scratchy with lots of discussion, lots of brainstorming and too many options. Emergenetics calls that analytic thinking. Others call these people bossy-pants. No, not really. OK, sometimes - because they don't really get this kind of thinking.

(And, just to be clear, many of us think in multiple styles - but we usually, still, have one that tends to take the lead in our thinking.)

Example of team-mates strangling a decision-maker...

So why does any of this matter? Well, what happens when Idea Person rubs shoulders with Outcome Person? What happens when Decisions bang into Possibilities?

Some of it starts with WHY we're talking/meeting/working together. Are we here to discuss possibilities or make decisions? Is that clear? But it goes down another level. I may come to a brainstorming meeting, but given my own tendency to think in decisions and outcomes I may become a complete rock in the flood of ideas - and drive all the possibility people right around the bend. Maybe I need to put my tendency to drive to conclusion on hold, briefly, during this meeting.

Maybe I should listen more than I decide, right at the moment. It can work the other way too, of course. I can come to a decision/planning meeting, but my tendency as Captain Idea is to keep generating others ways to tackle the problem, taking the conversation off on interesting tangents, etc., and in the process making my colleagues nuts at my distractions. Maybe I should consider which of my many ideas are most useful here, share those 2 or 3 notions and then let the process move towards resolution - even if they didn't take my idea or recommendations.

Yeah, a little self-awareness can go a long ways in helping diminish the likelihood of conflict. I have more to say about that in regards to the thinking preferences in my next blog.

Food for Thought

Are you an idea generator? Or more oriented towards that deciding and outcomes thing?

What kind of thinking drives you CRAZY in meetings at work?


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