I stumbled across a concept some time ago that has had a great impact on my relationships – so I began sharing it with women at You Are Worthy, as well as with my many team members on mission trips, and I have heard no end to the stories of how this is changing people and the way they communicate. So…here it is 😉
Verbal Processors vs. Internal Processors
Yes, if you have never heard about this before – get ready for an “a-ha” moment!
Everyone has a unique way of processing information, conversations, emotions, and experiences. But there seem to be 2 categories for this processing, and of course, each person thinks theirs is the way it should be for everyone! This often causes a disconnect in relationships when we are not aware of each other’s style of processing, because we feel either unheard or misunderstood.
Let me explain:
An Internal Processor thinks about and files everything that goes on in their lives on the inside – deep in their soul (will, mind, and emotions). When everything is thought through quietly, on the inside, it is then filed away in private “filing cabinets” stored somewhere in the brain. These thoughts, opinions, and emotions are easily accessible if there is reason to dig the file out and share it – but usually, the internal processor is content to leave it in the drawer; having felt like it has properly been handled and laid to rest.
An External or Verbal Processor needs to talk about everything that goes on in their lives – in order to find out what they think and feel about it. The verbal processor often has no idea of their opinion on a particular subject until they hear the words crossing their lips and floating around in the air about them. It is at this point that they listen to what just came out, and then as they continue to talk, they can navigate through their own differing opinions until they settle on what they really think about the subject. If you are privileged to be the listener for this process, you may find that the beginning statements and opinions are very different from the ending final thoughts, as they go on a journey through the gate of this loved one’s lips.
Maybe this has already started you thinking – kind of analyzing yourself and those you are close with to figure out where everyone fits! This is the fun part – how do we do relationship and love people well with this knowledge?
First, let’s discover which kind of processor you are.
If you find you need time to think through events, conversations, issues, or experiences on your own quiet time…you may be an Internal Processor. You may often have nothing at-the-ready to answer the question, “How was your trip?” if you haven’t had enough time to file everything away. Or maybe as you are walking out of the movie theatre and your bestie says, “So, what’d you think?” and all you hear in your own head is….crickets.
It’s not that you don’t have thoughts or opinions – because, let’s face it, your mind is always thinking – but they are not organized and thought through to know if you agree with yourself! Therefore, you are not ready to state your opinion on any given subject until you have processed it and are at peace with it. This takes time – and the couple of minutes it takes to walk out of the theatre is not sufficient!
If you hear words coming out of your mouth most of the time, and you feel an urge to talk about everything going on around you – and you have a plethora of opinions all fighting to get out of your mouth…you are probably a Verbal Processor! It is important for you to let all the words out so you know what you think about something. It seems your words are connected to your beliefs and thoughts and they get all jumbled up and have no peace until they are released out into the air where they can get some rest!
It’s not that you don’t know your own mind – because you do know you the best! But your thoughts and feelings need air to breathe and settle, and you also need a listener! This is vital to your process, and if you find you have no one to discuss a matter with, you feel frustrated and unsure of where you are on any given topic.
So — how can we all get along???
First, determine which processing style is most like you, and give yourself permission to be just that! There is nothing wrong with you – you are not weird – and the way you see things is just right! If you happen to be surrounded by people that give you negative comments about your quietness or your talkativeness – understand they probably have the opposite processing style and haven’t seen from your point of view! All it takes is a little grace and permission for each kind and then we can let go of frustration, judgment, and criticism – of ourselves and those we love.
Second, guess (as we can’t determine for someone else) which style is the most like your loved ones, and ask them if any of these things ring true for them. Have a non-confrontational non-judgmental conversation that asks questions about how they see things, think through things, or come up with their beliefs and opinions. They may not even know! This conversation can bring such healing to others and ourselves as we see the unique way in which we are created to communicate.
Third, learn to love well those that have the opposite style – by filling the need they have.
If they are a Verbal processor, be a good and patient listener, allowing them to walk through the journey of finding what they really think. Give them time to discover their feelings, and agree with themselves without the threat of feeling like they are just being contradictory or flaky. Realize that the verbal journey is mandatory for them to settle into that peaceful place and to be able to stand for the truth as they see it. Ask good questions that keep the journey going, never trying to shut them down with criticism, and “But you just said…and now you are saying…” statements. You will love them well if you can create a safe place for them to let out all the words clamoring for the exit – and they feel they are not boring you or wasting your time.
If they are an Internal Processor, give them time to think things through, without asking too many probing questions right away. Let them know their opinion or belief is important and that you really want to hear it when they are ready to share it. It’s the sharing that is hard to get to, so make sure to follow up after a bit of time is given so they don’t just file it away and are never heard. You will often find these people are the quiet ones in the meetings at work or church and seem to never share of themselves. This can come off as “stand-offish” or intimidating because silence is often misunderstood as judgment or nonchalance. Ask them gently for their opinion, and if they haven’t had time to properly decide what they think, assure them that it is important and wanted, and you will get back to them to hear their heart. You can love them well by giving them time and space, and then not forgetting about them!
One last tidbit – if you are in a marriage or committed love relationship and are finding that you have a few hiccups in your communicating style – this could be a start to new levels of loving each other well! Oftentimes there are both styles of processing in the relationship, and so that lack of understanding of each other’s point of view begins to drive a wedge between the two of you, causing resentment and unforgiveness when you feel unheard and misunderstood. Take some time to discuss this concept and discover together how you can listen and share your hearts in a way that feels authentic to each other.