An acquaintance of mine, we’ll call her Dana, is starting a new business venture with a friend of hers. “We are trying to figure each other out,” Dana said. “We have known each other for a long time but not in a business sense. We are just getting to know each other’s work style.”

As we talked further, Dana described how her friend would sometimes stop her when she was in the middle of talking, by putting up a hand, and how she found it disconcerting. “I have so many great ideas for our product,” she said. “And I can see it in my mind, the styles, the numbers, everything. But sometimes my friend shushes me!” Dana was clearly bothered by what she saw as her friend being dismissive of her ideas.

“Your friend may be someone who prefers to think first, then talk,” I offered. “What I know of you, you are a talk-thinker.”

“A talk thinker?” she asked with puzzlement.

“Yes, you like to talk as you think and formulate your ideas out loud.”

“Yes, I do!” she said. “I like to verbalize my thoughts and bounce ideas in the moment.”

“Yes, you do,” I said. “And I’ll bet your friend would rather sit in quiet as she mulls over the ideas you threw out and her ideas as well.”

“That’s it!,” she said.

I know this situation well. It’s what I have with Lisa, my business partner. Lisa is a talk-thinker. She thinks out loud and moves quickly through her thoughts. I am a quiet-thinker. I need to think things through in my head before I share. It’s a style thing and in order to have an effective relationship, we’ve had to figure out how to satisfy both needs and maintain a strong connection.

Here are a few pointers for forging a great partnership between a talk-thinker and a quiet-thinker:

  • Call it out – if you are in a new relationship with someone, you may not realize that you have two different thinking styles. Pay attention to how you both approach a problem or share ideas. When you see that there is a difference in how you think, name it. Point out how you are both different.
  • See the value in both styles – Lisa and I work very well together. We have created a bond and a way of working that works because we appreciate what we each bring to our work and our working relationship.
  • Leverage your different styles – there are times when Lisa’s ability to think quickly and talk things through is what we need to push ahead on an issue, generate excitement, and get started. There are also times when my more pensive, slower approach is needed in order to take a step back, consider what is needed, and ensure that we haven’t missed anything. We have found ways to use both styles, and balance both styles, effectively.
  • Know how to communicate effectively with a talk-thinker – to get the most from a talk-thinker, honor their need to talk things through. Set aside time to brainstorm and allow them to “riff” their ideas. You can help move to action by capturing their thoughts in writing. Often talk-thinkers can be a bit unfocused, so written information can keep them on track.
  • Know how to communicate with a quiet-thinker – to get the most from a quiet-thinker, honor their need for space and peace. Give them time to think things through silently and wait for them to fully formulate their ideas, so they can share them. Ask questions in order to understand what is underneath their thoughts.

Research shows that the best teams and partnerships come from diverse perspectives and styles. At first, it’s necessary to understand and come to term with the differences. But once that happens, the differences among people can bring about greater innovation, productivity, and understanding.

What have you learned from working with someone with a different style than yours?
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