“Thinking is more interesting than knowing, but less interesting than looking” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You improve your communication with others when you can match their thinking style.
You can also avoid rubbing your boss the wrong way by paying close attention to how they approach the tasks of the day.
In Coping with Difficult Bosses, Robert Bramson identifies five thinking styles to categorize our modes of thinking and problem solving we use most frequently.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood. The more you understand somebody, the better you can adapt your style. I think the five thinking styles are a helpful framework in addition to understanding somebody’s learning style ( auditory, visual, or kinesthtic), their NLP meta-programs, their motivation (towards pleasure or away from pain), their values, their "rules", their extraversion and introversion tendencies, their passive or aggressive tendencies, whether they are more "task-centered" or "people-centered", their decision making style (consult-and-decide or build consensus), and their management styles (Autocratic, Paternalistic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire.)
- Establish rapport. I think the heart of identifying the five thinking-styles revolves around establishing rapport. Rapport is the key to communication, influence, and trust.
- Know the anti-patterns. It’s probably more important to know how to avoid rubbing somebody the wrong way, than getting the preferred or ideal communication style exactly right.
- Wear different hats. I think you can use the Six-Thinking Hats concept to switch your hat based on who you are working with. Each hat you put on or take off can represent a different thinking style.
Five Thinking Styles
According to Bramson, the five thinking styles are:
- Pragmatist Thinkers
- Analyst Thinkers
- Realist Thinkers
According to Bramson, "Synthesists are creative thinkers who perceives the world in terms of opposites. When you say black, they think white, when you say long, they think short."
To connect with Synthesists, Bramson suggests "listen appreciatively to their speculation and don’t confuse their arguing nature with resistance."
According to Bramson, "Idealists believe in lofty goals and standards."
To connect with Idealists, Bramson suggests "associate what you want to do with these goals of quality, service, and community good."
According to Bramson, "Pragmatic thinkers are flexible, resourceful folk who look for immediate payoff rather than for a grand plan that will change the world."
To connect with Pragmatists, Bramson suggests "emphasize short-term objectives on which you can get started with resources at hand."
According to Bramsom, "Analyst thinkers equate accuracy, thoroughness, and attention to detail with completeness. They are likely to gather data, measure it, categorize it, and rationally and methodically calculate the right answer to any problem you come up with.
To connect to Analysts, Bramson suggests "provide a logical plan replete with back-up data and specifications."
According to Bramson, "Realist thinkers are fast moving doers who know that reality is what their senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch – tell them it is, and not that dry stuff that one finds in accounting ledgers, or the insipid pages of manual of operations."
To connect with Realists, Bramson suggests, "If you communicate with Realist bosses as if they were Analysts, you will never get their attention. Rather than gobs of computer-printouts and other detailed information, Realists want a three-paragraph “Executive Summary” which tells briefly what is wrong and how you propose to fix it. For rather complicated reasons, they will often take you at your word if they see you as a qualified expert. You become an expert in their eyes when they know that you’ve assembled a store of facts in which they are interested, and you have proposed a set of actions that they already believe are the best things to do.”
How To Use the Five Thinking Styles
Take the time to place your boss or who you need to interact with into one or two of the five thinking-style categories. Keep in mind that while one or two styles predominates for most people, about fifteen percent use all five styles equally. Those who do, are seldom difficult bosses. Once you’ve identified their preferred categories, figure out how you can change your approach to better suit their style.
Photo by Ivan Zuber
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