There are an infinite number of ways that people are diverse. Diversity is a huge conversation at present and should continue to be as we don’t handle it well. Heck, we can’t even get along with people who are quite a bit like us, let alone those who have a totally different way of being or worldview than we do. There are some differences that show up in both workplace and home relationships that can actually be fairly easy to deal. This happens once we have understanding and acceptance (ok, that’s pretty much the trick to all differences!)
Differences in the Workplace
One of the issues I’ve run across several times is the difference between people who think before they talk and those who need to talk in order to think things out. This can create huge misunderstanding, frustration and conflict. I coached a leader once who had been tagged as constantly critical, negative, and change averse. As we explored these issues, what surfaced was something entirely different. The majority of people around her thought things out before they spoke. My client was the opposite, and all of her weighing of pros and cons, of reviewing the past to see what had not worked, of pointing out pitfalls and challenges ahead all came out in her talk to think. If we were to “out” all of our inner voices, we would probably find that this chatter goes on in all of us, but some of us don’t put it out externally.
My client was totally unaware that this was her communication style. I’m sure her co-workers didn’t have awareness around their own communication style and because it was so much more prevalent in this particular culture to keep your thoughts inside, my client was seen as wrong. Now, I am in no way saying that every person who is seen as negative or hyper critical is like this. It’s simply an example of how differences can be viewed.
Talk To Think
Another example I can think of is a fellow who needed to work out what he wanted to say while talking. We were in a setting where there wasn’t time given for a lot of discussion and he was requested a couple of times to “bottom line” it. He absolutely could not do this! He did not know what the bottom line was until he said it! The result was that he felt dismissed and shut down. His valuable insights and participation were lost.
Think To Talk
A friend of mine is the total opposite. She will have thought and thought and thought and thought again. Then, occasionally, she comes out with some proclamation that makes absolutely zero sense because you have not been in her mind. You could write her off as loony, however, if you question it, you find out some of the thoughts and can eventually understand the statement.
Tips on Handling This Particular Set of Differences:
- Become aware of your default. Are you a think before talking or a talk to think person?
- If you are a think to talk person, be aware that you may be assuming that people “get” your thinking process. Know that the way you reached your conclusion may not be as obvious or logical as you may think. Sometimes knowing the key thinking points can help people understand your conclusion better.
- If you are a talk to think person, be aware that you may be confusing the life out of others. Because they think first, they’ll assume you do as well and you can come across as wishy washy, unfocused or, as in the case of my client, a naysayer. It’s all part of our differences in thinking, but not everyone is aware.
- Try transparency as to your style. You can say “I’ve thought this through and based on blah, blah, and blah, I think the answer is blah”. Or you can say “I need to talk this through and look at it from different angles.”
- Try finding somebody of your own style to help you if you need to talk to think. This is particularly helpful if you are going into a group setting, where you may be expected to be more succinct.
- Before impatiently demanding somebody bottom line or cut to the chase, check out if they are able to do that. Ask them or think about your prior experiences with them. Are they somebody who seems to just like to hear themselves talk and will go on and on about anything and everything or do they need to have a few extra minutes to organize their thoughts aloud?
So, if you want to think about this and let me know later. Let’s do that. If you’d like to talk it through together, then let’s do that! Enjoy exploring the myriad differences in humanity. We are a weird lot – all of us.
Rosalie Boulter, Sept. 2018
Rosalie Boulter wants the world to find the joy and humour in differences though is still being totally challenged herself! Harmony, Peace, and Humour are 3 of her key values. Check out her upcoming event taking place in October 2018 here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/conflict-transformation-tickets-47489029967?aff=ebapi