Thinking About Thinking

The relationship people have with information differs for each individual. This is an important concept for two reasons: personal growth and communication skills. A man named Anthony Gregorc did some research on Mind Styles. I'll be discussing what I learned from identifying my own mind style in the hope that reading will help you in your own introspective journey.

First things first, what are Mind Styles? Mind Styles categorize the way a person sequences and relates to information. There are two ordering qualities: sequential and random, and two perceptive qualities: concrete and abstract.

Sequential: preference for processing information in ordered chunks

Random: preference for processing information in out-of-order chunks

Concrete: based in reality/the physical world, what can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted

Abstract: based in intuition or imagination, seeks patterns

With these four qualities we can build the four Mind Styles: Concrete Sequential, Concrete Random, Abstract Sequential, and Abstract Random. Here's a handy quiz to determine which style is your preference. It's not as pretty as BuzzFeed, but it works. I show a preference for Abstract Random thinking, and the remainder of this post will be about that style.

Abstract Random (AR)

Stengths:

  • Best style for learning new things
  • Fabulous team player (noncompetitive, seeks harmony in group settings)
  • Seeks to maintain open lines of communication
  • Does exceedingly well when able to personally identify with tasks (blogging is a great example)

Weaknesses:

  • May be easily bored with sequential, detailed information
  • Difficulty sharing knowledge (AB+ blood types of the information sharing world - accepts information in all forms, but can only transfer it unaltered to other AR thinkers)
  • Difficulty explaining or justifying feelings
  • May perform poorly in the absence of personal attention or emotional support
  • May react poorly to authoritarian personalities
  • Difficulty working in a vaccuum, or with people that don't seem friendly
  • Difficulty accepting even positive criticism

My Adaptations:

  • Making lists (to mark my progress)
  • Asking questions (to stay engaged)
  • Approaching criticism calmly and mindfully, and allowing time to 'process'
  • Midfulness practices such as yoga and meditation
  • ...

Areas that I need to work on:

  • Reading textbooks that are sequential and detailed
  • Recognizing my reactions to criticism in the moment

So far in DBC, I can see the impact of my thinking style most clearly in my response to blogging, and in my response to reading dense (boring) textbooks. I know now that the reason I spend too much time tweaking my website is because I have a personal connection to it. Similarly, the reason I struggle with this one textbook - The Well Grounded Rubyist, by David A. Black - which is, objectively, a fantastic learning tool, is because the content is presented is a sequential and detailed manner. My preference would be to speak with the author himself, so that I could jump topics without fear of getting lost in the material. As that's not an altogtether realistic solution, for now I'll settle for a strategy of reading for very short periods of time. If any readers know of a better solution, please send it my way.

To wrap up the discussion of thinking styles - the importance lies in self-awareness, and in the knowledge that other people may not be processing information the same way you do. Sequential thinkers may want stepping stones so they don't get lost, abstract thinkers may want all the highlights right away so they stay engaged. Effective communication is a well respected skill, and having a grasp of thinking styles will guide you in adjusting your communication to be effective with anyone.

In closing, my biggest struggle to date, with my Web Dev bootcamp program, is my propensity towards self-doubt. I lose faith in myself, and I give substance to my fears of inadequacy. Ex: "I'm no good at this, I'm so lazy I can't even get through the assigned textbook." A discussion of thinking styles, among other introspective pursuits, helps me clear away my critical self-talk for the lies that they are. Perhaps you can relate, perhaps not. Either way, I hope you learned something by reading.