I had a lightbulb moment the other day, meaning a light bulb (or was it a spot light?) went off in my head when I was reading an excellent blog post by Darya Rose.  This problem had plagued me for years, and although I figured out a solution, I had never heard anyone else talk about this mysterious phenomenon until now.

“You probably know a few people like me. We are often described as “cold” and “aloof,” but are also considered “low drama” and great problem solvers. We are rarely known for our suave people skills.

It turns out what distinguishes low-emotional people from regular people (if you’re a follower of Jungian psychology you might call these people “Thinkers” and “Feelers,” respectively) is how much we rely on empathy to communicate.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. Normal people rely heavily on empathy for most interactions.

If you’re wondering why this needs explaining, you’re probably normal.

But if you’re a Thinker like me, this could be news to you.

Her last statement hit me like a brick wall.  It was indeed news to me.

Great problem solver, low drama, hard worker, and no time for feelings?  That is me to a “T”.   But the rest of the world uses empathy to communicate?  That, my friend, was news to me.

Or was it?  Actually in my own fumbling, crude way I had discovered part of her empathetic communication secret years ago.  I just didn’t understand it all or describe it so eloquently.  But, like a low drama problem solver, I did use it effectively in a couple of situations to manage my staff better and increase moral to a kick ass level.  And productivity followed with it.  

The morning.  Like most cold, aloof thinkers, I like to get sh*t done, especially in the morning.  For a long time I wondered what the heck was up with these people that stroll into my office, can see I’m obviously very busy, and then proceed to chit chat with me about any stupid subject under the sun.  Meanwhile, all I can think about is “Get to the point!”

Night Shift.  Occasionally I had people working nights and like any good manager, I would drop in and check up on them from time to time, to let them know the company loved them and appreciated them, etc.  The problem was again, these good workers would want to chat my ear off.  And I get it, it’s night and your lonely, but it was still more than I could bare.  (And before the haters jump all over me, I worked nights for years so yes I know exactly what it’s like)

For years these people puzzled me.  And I could see I puzzled them.

Then one day it dawned on me.  Feelers are people first, and business second.  Thinkers, like me, are business first and people second. 

That’s it.  It’s simple.  Don’t ask me why, but the order of those 2 communication styles is critically important to each type of person.  All you have to do is figure out which order for each person.

Hold it.  Read that paragraph again, it’s that important.

The first group, the Feelers, are almost down right offended when you don’t ask how their weekend was, how their family is, or how their book club meeting went last night.  When you barge into their office with a list of questions they’re thinking “How can she ask me all this when she hasn’t even asked me about my new shoes?  Doesn’t she care about me?”

To her, you are the bitchy boss, only interested in the bottom line.

The second type, the Thinkers, are often (but not always) introverts.  They don’t’ have time for small talk, and look at it as a waste of time and company money.  For the most part they don’t care what you did last night.

The truth is they do care a little, but only after work concerns or questions have been addressed.

Knowing this made me a lot less exasperated when people came into my office to chat in the morning.  Once I understood they weren’t just wasting my time but that this was important to them, I could handle it a lot better.  When I recognized staff who had this type of personality, I’d make sure to ask them a couple of social questions first (even though I really didn’t want to, ha ha)

My mornings got a lot better, fast.  But when it came to night shift, I didn’t know most of them, so I really had to put my new found knowledge to the test.  When I met them I started off with a few social questions and gauged their response.

“How’s it going?  You like nights or does it suck as much as everyone says?’’

“Got big party plans for the weekend?”

“Hey, there’s a kick ass car in the parking lot.  Is that yours?”

You get the idea.

 Then I switched to work talk.

“How’s the shift going, any major problems tonight?”

“Do you have all the tools/materials/support you need?”

“How’s the paperwork, any problems?”

Again, you get the idea.

I listened to their responses and could tell very quickly who the Feelers were and who were the Thinkers.  I spent 15 minutes checking in with each of the staff and some wanted to socialize the entire time.  Previously I hated that, but now I knew they needed that, and I was happy to give it to them.  Suddenly they felt respected and appreciated.  Suddenly Carrie cared.

 Other staff didn’t want to socialize at all and 15 minutes turned into barely 5 minutes about work; answering any problem they had, and then letting them get back to it.  They finally felt great; they didn’t have an annoying manager bothering them with pointless questions and wasting their time. 

I’m not going to lie, I even amazed myself.  I went from being stuck in my own Thinker attitude to understanding others, and being able to talk to them in “their language”. 

The results of these simple changes?

My coworkers in the office were happier and enjoyed talking to me more…I could see it.  I knew how to talk to them and I got answers or results a lot faster.

Night shift problems disappeared.  Little stuff like lost tools was greatly reduced, more work was finished instead of being left for the day shift, and I got noticeably less phone calls and texts at night.

It was amazing.

Take the time to learn which of your staff or coworkers are the Feelers or the Thinkers.  Talk to them in the order they like to be talked to, and be your work’s wizard of communication.