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These 6 Thinking Styles Will Help You Understand Your Peers (NEW BOOK)

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Have you ever been in a conversation and realized you weren't connecting? You were making perfect sense, but the other person just wasn't getting it. Wasn't getting you.

We all tend to talk about things that energize us, but unless you can energize the other person, there's little chance of making a connection. And without a solid connection, there's no chance of a sale.

Using a psychological questionnaire, you can easily identify what energizes other people. But you can't give your clients a personality test. You need to identify them on the fly -- by how they speak and act. Once you've identified what energizes them, you need to communicate in a way that connects with them -- that will help them understand you.

In our new book Never Be Closing, we identify the six most common thinking styles to help you understand how others see the world, how they relate to information, and what energizes them. Here, excerpted from the book, are clues to help you identify, communicate, and connect better with your clients, colleagues, and even your boss.

People energized by CONTEXT seek safety in facts. They distrust assumptions. They ask many clarifying questions. Before making decisions, they need to understand the situation, the data, and who else has weighed in. Don't expect final decisions during the meeting. They need time to think things through.

What to look for:

  • Well-organized desk/office, few personal mementos
  • Credentials, certificates, mission statements
  • Neat, conservative dress
  • Concise emails, precise language, jargon, acronyms
  • Many clarifying "Why?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Stick to a printed agenda, with outcomes for each item
  • Expect to cover few items, but thoroughly
  • Confirm they are okay with agenda items before moving on
  • Offer detailed support: spec sheets, timetables, price lists
  • Take notes on follow-up data you need to supply

People energized by RESULTS like to be in control. They focus on strategies/outcomes, not tactics/process. They want to get down to business and resent time-wasters. They want accuracy, not detail. Be prepared to answer one of their most common questions: "Why are we here?"

What to look for:

  • Sparse desk, often in power position, little evidence of work
  • Framed family photos, few other personal items
  • Deliberate, careful dress
  • Concise emails, confident, directive language
  • "What will?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Have headline agenda, with brief objectives for each item
  • Link proposals to industry drivers/strategies
  • Discuss strategies/results, not tactics/processes
  • Be candid about costs, benefits, risks
  • Demonstrate you've used their time productively

People energized by IDEAS love playing with possibilities. They riff on connections, and may lose track of time as they explore them. They are comfortable with ambiguity, but bored by details. Because they have so many ideas, they may find it difficult to land on a single one.

What to look for:

  • Workspace filled with photos, articles, files, toys, books, games
  • Dress almost never conservative
  • Rapidly written emails with typos, exclamations
  • Jumping from topic to topic
  • "What if?", "What else?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Start with overview of meeting rather than agenda
  • Emphasize big picture, not details
  • Use pictures, diagrams, sketches
  • Don't force them to closure before they are ready
  • Give them time to incubate on ideas

People energized by PROCESS value step-by-step thinking. They enjoy tweaking things to make them work better. They like timetables and detailed plans. They value careful, precise language, but often don't recognize that others may not get their technical jargon. They want measurable success criteria and are not persuaded by anecdotes or generalities.

What to look for:

  • Clean, functional desk, chair with back to door, facing computer
  • Neat, color-coded stacks of paper, diagrams, flowcharts, spreadsheets
  • Neat dress, often with pocket protectors, key chains, phone holsters
  • Factual emails, precise, technical language, facts/figures
  • "How?", "When?", "Where?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Refer to a logical written agenda
  • Give them an opportunity to compare plans and proposals
  • Leave time for them to ask questions
  • Answer questions with precise data, print support
  • Show backup plans, risk-mitigation strategies

People energized by ACTION seek security by exercising control. They tend to be decisive, and want to move to action quickly. They can be impatient when others think or act too slowly for them. They need progress feedback on projects. Because they are so busy, their meetings are often interrupted by calls or messages.

What to notice:

  • Desk cluttered with projects on-the-go, schedules, to-do lists
  • Mementos of achievements
  • Short emails with contractions, decisive, controlling language
  • Impatience, often cutting off other people's statements
  • "When?", "What's next?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Avoid long explanations, detailed agendas
  • Use to-do list, visibly checking things off as you go
  • Stress that you or your team will check-in regularly
  • Focus on near-term progress and tactics over strategy
  • Don't overstay your welcome

People energized by PEOPLE prefer to set the climate of meetings before discussing business. Small talk is important to them. They value human interaction above efficiency, and are bored by technical or financial intricacies. They are okay with meetings being interrupted by colleagues popping in. They may find it hard to end meetings.

What to notice:

  • Greeting with welcoming gestures, warm handshakes
  • Photos of family, friends, colleagues, group shots
  • Overt facial expressions, open body language
  • Emails with exclamations, emoticons, friendly, humorous language
  • Signs of informality, references to other people, personal touches
  • "Who?" questions

How to communicate:

  • Do not immediately offer an agenda
  • Warm up with small talk, comments about their workspace
  • Explain how your proposal will affect people they work with
  • Use informal, expressive words, phrases, body language
  • Ask about personal interests

Adapted from NEVER BE CLOSING: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself by Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne with permission of Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright (c) Timothy Hurson and Timothy Dunne, 2014.