People Think Differently

The other day I noticed a difference in the way someone else thought in comparison to how I thought. People frequently spout the cliche,"people think differently," but have you ever experienced this first hand? I don't think the statement has any real impact until you see a vivid example.

On the way back from a hike yesterday, a friend was driving her car in her town. She knew the roads because she has driven them for years. She certainly knew that the name of the road leading back to her house was "South Imperial Drive." Another road named "North Imperial Drive" existed nearby. With guests in the car, it is understandable that she would just focus on the name "Imperial Drive" and forget about the "North" or "South." Approaching "North Imperial Drive," she saw the words "Imperial Drive" and tried to make a left -- except the left went into a parking lot. After a quick correction, we continued down to "South Imperial Drive."

Now, this is a completely understandable mistake. My friend navigates by knowing the names of the roads and what turns to make. When we left her house, she told us how to leave by listing the roads without hesitation.

If you were to ask me for directions from my house to the nearest highway, though I have spent years there, I would have to stop and think about the names of the roads to provide clear directions. When navigating, I always prefer a map over a list of directions with the names of the roads. When I drive, I focus on landmarks and what the road looks like.

I depend on visual queues when navigating, but my friend navigates by knowing the road names.

All these years, people have been telling me that others think differently than I do. Only yesterday did I get a glimpse into how some people process information differently than me. This has implications for everything from how I write technical documentation to how I give simple directions to someone. Now, when talking to people, I'll consider how that person thinks and ask myself, "How can I communicate in a way the person clearly understands?"