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Communication Styles: Internal Vs. External Processing

Our communication style has a massive impact on the way we communicate, both as speakers and listeners. Have you ever noticed patterns in the way you communicate and process your thoughts? Have you ever been annoyed by someone else’s communication style?

There is a spectrum in communication that relates to how people prefer to think and share their ideas. On one end there are internal processors and on the other end, there are external processors. Everyone’s default communication style sits somewhere on this spectrum. To be an effective communicator one should be aware of where they prefer to sit on this spectrum and then learn and practice when to flex using different styles for different situations.

What is the difference between the two styles?

External processors often process their thoughts out loud. They get clarity as they communicate through the support of others. Some qualities external processors may display while communicating include:

  • Sharing much of what they’re thinking

  • Sharing thoughts broadly

  • Sometimes sharing contradictions as they sort out their thinking while they process out loud

  • Need less silent processing time

Internal processors often need more time alone to process their thoughts and feelings internally before they communicate. They get clarity on what they think and then they share it. Some qualities internal processors may display while communicating include:

  • Choosing their words purposely and carefully

  • Sometimes their perspective can be narrow

  • They often don’t prefer to speak until they’ve thought through the entire issue and have already come to a conclusion

  • They can have difficulty coming to conclusions without having silent time to process their thoughts

Although you may feel like you fall clearly into one category or the other, the truth is that people are on a spectrum and will show communication tendencies from both styles - and that’s a good thing! To be an effective communicator we need to match the way we communicate with the situation.

Here are two tips for External Processors:

  1. Tell On Yourself - When you are speaking and processing something be transparent that you are processing your thinking verbally and that these are not your final ideas.

  2. Be Patient - When others don’t speak up right away, provide space for them to think through their ideas first.


Here are two tips for Internal Processors:

  1. Prepare Your Thinking in Advance - When you know the topic you can take time to consider your thinking before you are in a live situation where you will be sharing your ideas.

  2. Be Assertive - Ask for time to process your ideas internally - even create a follow-up connection point if you think you need more time.

Regardless of which processing style you prefer, it’s your responsibility to partner with others in all your communications to reach clarity. This means flexing your style even when it will take you out of your comfort zone.

Complete the External vs. Internal Processor Assessment to learn more about your communication style.

To learn more about our New Manager Training click here and connect today to set up a time to discuss your training needs further.


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