The Shocking Truth About How Your Brain Works (And Why Some People Drive You Crazy!)

Understanding how people process information differently can transform how we communicate, collaborate, and relate to one another. While we all take in and make sense of information in our own unique way, research shows there are some key processing preferences that shape how we think. When we take the time to understand these styles – whether someone leans verbal or visual, analytical or emotional, serial or holistic – we unlock immense benefits. We can present information in ways that resonate with different groups. We can structure discussions and decisions to leverage diverse strengths. And we can avoid miscommunications caused by processing gaps. Ultimately, appreciating each other’s processing gifts creates stronger teams, relationships, and organisations. This blog post explores some of the core differentiators in information processing and how we can bridge those gaps for mutual understanding and achievement. Read on to learn how embracing diverse thinking empowers us to reach new heights together.

Internal vs. External Processing 

A major difference is whether someone tends to process information internally or externally. Internal processors think through information largely inside their own heads. They may take time to silently reflect on ideas before speaking. External processors need to verbalise or visualise information to work through it. They may think out loud or talk through problems.

Bridging the Internal-External Gap

People who have different processing styles – internal versus external – can sometimes experience friction. Internal processors may see external processors as chatty or distracting. External processors may view internal ones as aloof or disengaged. 

But these differences don’t have to hinder communication. Here are some tips for bridging the internal-external gap:

  • Explain your preferred style. Just making each other aware of how you process can help.
  • Take turns. External processors can try to pause and allow internal processors time to think before speaking. 
  • Use writing. Email or chat can allow internal processors to communicate at their own pace.
  • Ask questions. External processors should ask internal ones for input to keep them engaged.
  • Compromise. Internal processors can try to occasionally think out loud, and external ones to pause and reflect. 
  • Leverage strengths. Internal processors are great for in-depth analysis while external ones naturally brainstorm and collaborate. 

When internal and external processors understand each other’s styles and adapt, they can form very productive working relationships. Processing differences don’t need to divide us. With some effort, they can make us better.

Verbal vs. Visual Processing

Related to internal/external processing is whether someone leans towards verbal or visual processing. Verbal processors think and communicate mainly through words. They focus on written and spoken language. Visual processors rely more on visual aids like diagrams, demonstrations, or images. They gravitate towards charts, colour coding, and other visual tools. 

Connecting With Verbal and Visual Processors 

In the same way that internal and external processors differ, so do verbal and visual processors. Verbal thinkers focus on the written and spoken word. Visual processors rely more on images, charts, and colour coding. 

Misunderstandings can come up here as well. Verbal people may see visuals as distracting or oversimplified. Visual folks may think verbal communicators lack clarity. But each style brings something to the table.

Some tips for working with different processing preferences:

  • Use visuals to reinforce verbal communication. Charts and diagrams can help drive key points home. 
  • Summarise verbal information visually. Visual processors will appreciate Cliff’s Notes in picture form.
  • Explain visuals verbally. Add a narrative to images and graphics to create deeper understanding. 
  • Ask questions. Verbal processors should ask visual ones to explain graphics. Visual people should request clarification of complex verbal concepts.
  • Tell stories. Verbally sharing stories and examples helps information stick for visual thinkers.
  • Leverage technology. Use tools like presentation slides that combine words and images.  

With mutual understanding, verbal and visual processors can develop more rounded communication. Verbal thinkers can get to the essence visually. Visual people can learn to articulate key points with words. When we bridge processing gaps, we make each other better.

Analytical vs. Emotional Processing 

Some people process information through logic and rational analysis. Others are more influenced by emotions or intuition. Analytical processors want the facts and data. Emotional processors consider how something makes them or others feel. Both modes of thinking are important.

Bringing Logic and Feeling Together

Analytical processors make decisions based on facts, data, and reason. Emotional processors incorporate personal feelings and impact on people. This differs but can complement each other.

Some tips for reconciling the two:

  • Explain your orientation. Just sharing your analytical or emotional approach upfront can help interactions. 
  • Ask questions. Analytic thinkers should ask about the human impact. Emotional ones about the rationale.
  • Share all perspectives. Analytic types need to express logic as well as emotion around decisions.
  • Avoid extremes. Emotional processors should integrate some facts and data. Analytical ones need to show empathy.
  • Compromise. Try incorporating both analytic concerns and emotional considerations when problem solving.
  • Check assumptions. Analytic people may assume emotion clouds judgment when it can provide wisdom. Emotional folks can overlook logic which brings focus.
  • Assign roles. Analytic people can research data. Emotional ones can gather human feedback. 

Blending analytical and emotional thinking allows truly balanced decisions, leveraging the wisdom of both the head and the heart. With understanding and communication, these processors can learn from each other.

Serial vs. Holistic Processing  

Serial processors prefer to tackle tasks step-by-step in a linear way. They focus on individual pieces. Holistic processors want the big picture view and make connections across different information. They may be more comfortable handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

Connecting Serial and Holistic Thinkers

Serial processors prefer a linear approach, focusing on one step at a time. Holistic processors want the big picture view, making broad connections. 

This difference can cause tension but can also create complementarity in thinking. Here are some tips:

  • Explain your style upfront to foster mutual understanding.
  • Serial processors should share the vision and context behind methodical steps.  
  • Holistic thinkers should break down their insights into actionable sequential tasks.
  • Serial folks can detail key milestones and checkpoints for holistic people.
  • Holistic people can remind serial ones to keep sight of the end goal.
  • When collaborating, serial thinkers can lay out the plan while holistic ones envision possibilities. 
  • Allow time for both focused work (serial) and brainstorming (holistic).

Understanding these styles allows leveraging serial precision and holistic vision. Serial steps build towards big picture goals. When perspectives connect, the synergy empowers teams.

Self Analysis

Here are some suggested self-assessment questions to identify your information processing preferences:

Internal vs External Processing

  1. Do you think through ideas silently first before discussing them out loud? Or do you need to talk through things to think through them?
  2. Do people sometimes tell you they wish you would speak up more in meetings or group discussions?
  3. Do you prefer quiet reflection time alone over active group brainstorming?

Verbal vs Visual Processing 

  1. Do you find yourself explaining things to others using a lot of words and descriptions?
  2. Do charts, graphs, and visuals often confuse or bore you? 
  3. Do people suggest you add more visuals to your presentations or documents?

Analytical vs Emotional Processing

  1. Are you more persuaded by logical arguments based on data? Or do personal stories and experiences influence you more?
  2. Do you make pro/con lists and research extensively before making decisions?
  3. Are you sometimes told you come across as cold or lacking empathy? 

Serial vs Holistic Processing

  1. Do you tackle projects step-by-step in an orderly linear way?
  2. Do you focus on completing each task fully before moving to the next?
  3. Do you feel uncomfortable managing multiple projects simultaneously? 

Answering these questions and assessing your responses can reveal your natural processing inclinations. The key is not to label yourself but to use the knowledge to develop self-awareness and appreciation for other styles. Our diversity makes teams and relationships richer.


There are many other ways people can differ, like speed of processing or working memory capacity. The key is to be aware of other people’s processing preferences, so we can present information and communicate in a way that makes sense to them. When working in groups, we need a balance of processing skills for optimal thinking and collaboration.