bridge the gap in differences, with the right language

If you can find the right language to explain a concept, you can quickly bridge the gap in you team members’ different perspectives.

Our brains are wired completely differently. You’ve probably come across some of the archetypes for these differences; for example introverts vs. extroverts.

There are myriad different ways beyond introversion and extroversion that our brains work differently. These differences mean that we experience and approach problems entirely differently. It’s really important to have the right language to talk about, understand, and archetype these differences.

Today, I was in a team meeting watching two different personalities crash into each other. One was a top-down thinker, an abstract thinker, who sees the big picture (forests). The other was a bottom up thinker, a practical thinker, who sees the details (trees). The two team members were trying to solve the same problem, and trying to work out where to start. Each was getting frustrated that the other couldn’t understand what they were trying to explain.

The detailed thinker was arguing that we couldn’t start with the abstract, for fear of never building a solution to the problem. The abstract thinker was arguing that we couldn’t start with the details, for fear of constraining the potential solutions too early.

Each was criticising the others’ argument for being too much of the opposite style of thinking. I explained to the team members that one of them was a top-down thinker, and the other was a bottom-up thinker.

Once they had the language, the mental model, and the archetype for how each other were approaching the problem the two team members quickly built a shared understanding and agreed on how to start solving the problem.

The team members were missing the language for how to understand and talk about their differences. By giving them the language, I helped the team members quickly solve their problems.

We can bypass a lot of difficulty, argument, and angst by having the right language to talk about our differences and problems.