How do you process information? Do you need to think it over, or do you need to talk about it? People fall into one of two categories for processing information: the internal processor or the external processor. Here is another way to look at it. The external processor will talk to think while the internal processor will think to talk. One of these ways of processing information and navigating life’s challenges is not better than the other They both have strengths and weaknesses, and this is most often seen in the context of relationships when people process information differently. When people understand the way their spouse, friend, significant other, or coworker process information, it aids in promoting effective communication. However, when there is a disconnect in understanding the way others around you process information, it can lead to conflict, frustration, and anger.
External processors are strong in being able to intake information, assess it quickly, and know how to respond. They are quick thinkers on their feet and through conversation can quickly solidify thoughts and opinions. People that process externally also will engage in conversation-- sometimes with many people-- as a way of processing information or to work through a problem. Although external processors are sometimes quicker at assessing and processing information, they don’t always have their answer right away, and their thought or opinion can change as they talk with more people. Therefore, it’s important to understand that when an external processor is spouting off ideas, it may not be the idea they go with or is the final idea. They may need to talk it over to get to the right decision.
Internal processors are much less likely to engage in conversation with others as they are working through information or a problem. They are comfortable letting the information stew in their mind to think through the information. Internal processors often need to be able to play through scenarios in their head before they can make an opinion or a decision. Without seeing the many puzzle pieces, they are unable to see the whole puzzle which will delay their ability to make an opinion or decision. Internal processors are likely to arrive at a decision on their own, and once they make that decision, they don’t always feel it necessary to discuss how they got there or explain their process.
When two people that process information differently experience conflict, it can be challenging to work through it. The external processor wants to talk it out while the internal processor wants space to think. The challenge is to have balance and work together to process information so that each person can utilize their strengths. External processors likely need to use patience and allow the internal processors to have some space to think. Yet the internal processor may need to engage in some conversation sooner than they would like. It requires give and take combined with the knowledge of how those around you process information, feelings, and thoughts. When we acknowledge the needs of others, we are more likely to be patient and work as a team which can lead to more effective communication in relationships and friendships.
So how do you process information? Do you talk to think, or do you think to talk?