(Health Secrets) Each of us has a personal thinking style that organizes how we interact with other people, information, and problems solving. Understanding your personal thinking style is a good place to start on the journey to self acceptance and the acceptance of others.
A theoretical model created by Anthony Gregorc is useful for understanding your personal thinking style. It is described in his book An Adult’s Guide To Style. According to Gregorc, ones personal thinking style falls under one of two main headings, with each having two different expressions:
*Perceptual (abstract vs. concrete thought)
*Ordering (sequential vs. random thought)
Although each of us has a preferred a thinking style, we are normally able to understand and use other approaches. When we become overly committed to one style, the result is rigid thinking patterns. Being a more fluid thinker allows us to be able to automatically choose a mind style that suits the particular task at hand and leads to the best outcome.
Value judgments should not be placed on anyone’s preferred thinking style. Thinking styles do not represent high or low intelligence, or a naive or sophisticated outlook. The characteristics of Perceptual and Ordering abilities should be flexible depending on the people you are interacting with, or the learning or task at hand.
Is your perceptual thinking style abstract or concrete?
A Concrete Approach is a preference for taking in information directly through the five senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. A concrete approach workings with the obvious, the here and now, or what is. The concrete person is not looking for hidden meanings and may not always see relationships between ideas or concepts. Those with a natural strength in the concrete style will communicate in a direct, literal, no-nonsense manner. Think the range between Forest Gump and Temperance Brennan “Bones”!
An Abstract Approach involves visualizing, creating or imagining your way to understanding. When you use the abstract approach you may use intuition to understand subtle implications.
The person whose natural strength is the abstract style may use more subtle ways to get a point across. If this quote has meaning to you, you are thinking abstractly: “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.” ― William Blake.
Work and learning tasks as well as interaction with people often require us to shift back and forth from abstract to concrete. Although we have both concrete and abstract perceptual abilities to some extent, each person typically always has a preferred style. Some of us shift between thinking styles more easily than others. Thinking style probably reflects our biochemistry as well as genetic code.
Is your Ordering Ability sequential or random?
Ordering Ability refers to how you organize information. A sequential approach allows the mind to organize information in a linear, step-by-step manner, as if following a set of directions, a computer application, or a recipe.
Sequential Approach is to follow the model, a logical train of thought, or a traditional approach. You may prefer to follow a plan, rather than relying on impulse. When you plan a vacation you may have a step by step plan.
Random approach lets the mind organize information in chunks, and in no particular order. Random thinking often allows us to skip steps in a procedure and still produce the desired result. We may even start in the middle or at the end and work backwards. Random thinkers may prefer life to be more impulsive or spur of the moment rather than planned.
Thinking Style Characteristics
- Likes order, logical sequence, following directions, predictability, and working with facts
- Learns best in a structured environment where situations are predictable and ideas have practical use
- Has stress and difficulty working in groups and with unpredictable people
The concrete thinker is stressed when discussions have no specific point, in an unorganized work environment, and when following incomplete or unclear directions. Dealing with abstract ideas, being asked to use your imagination, and questions with no right or wrong answers are difficult and stressful for those with a concrete thinking preference. Concrete-sequential individuals are very stressed when things are not conventionally correct, or when others are too emotional, or too academic.
- Likes for his/her point to be heard and analyzes situations before making a decision or acting, applies logic when solving or finding solutions to problems
- Works best when they have access to experts or references, prefer simulating environments, and are able to work alone
- Experiences stress when working with multiple differing views, if there is too little time to work thoroughly, by repeating the same tasks over and over, and when boxed in by lots of specific rules and regulations
Abstract sequential people are stressed by “sentimental” thinking, by being asked to express their emotions, or by being diplomatic when convincing others. The abstract-sequential person may have a tendency to monopolize a conversation.
- Likes experimenting to find answers, taking risks, using intuition, and solving problems independently
- Learns best when able to use trial-and-error approaches, to compete with others, when given the opportunity to work through the problems by themselves
- Is stressed by restrictions and limitations, formal reports, routines, re-doing anything once it is done, keeping detailed records, showing how they got an answer, choosing only one answer, and having no options.
The concrete random individual finds it difficult to work with fuzzy headed thinking, being told to seek hard data, and working with those unwilling to consider various options.
- Likes to listen to others, brings harmony to group situations, establishing healthy relationships with others, and focuses on the issues at hand.
- Learns best in a personalized environment, when given broad or general guidelines, able to maintain friendly relationships, able to participate in group activities
- Stressed by explaining or justifying feelings, competition, working with dictatorial/authoritarian personalities, a restrictive environment, emotionally cold environment, concentrating on one thing at a time, giving exact details, negative or positive criticism.
Abstract random individuals are stressed by being told to be realistic, working in restrictive environments, and dealing with non-caring unemotional people.
How to Use this Information to De-Stress
- Understand and accept your style and abilities
- Understand and accept the style of your spouse, children, family, friends, coworkers
- Build on strengths (you can’t change your preferred abilities but you can consciously develop new abilities)
- Honor what you like
- Honor how you learn
- Honor what creates stress in you
- Know that your preferred style and abilities are most efficient, but you can train yourself to use other thinking styles for specific tasks (flexible thinking)
- Choose a career that is consistent with your thinking style and life will be less stressful
- Give yourself permission to be yourself
- Choose work environments consistent with your thinking style and ordering ability (there is a right place for every one)
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