Regarding the direction that people tend to move when it comes to the things they value, they tend to find themselves in one of two basic positions, Toward or Away from. 

Every individual will find themselves moving somewhere in the continuum between Toward and Away from. Usually, people will tend to move either more Towards or Away from what they value. Their position will significantly define the way they think and how they communicate. 

Some people have the basic orientation of moving Towards values. These values are called Pull values, values consisting of positive, desired results, and benefits one can have and achieve in the future. Pull values are values an individual finds important and attractive, and these values are pulling the person into the future. Therefore, people with Towards orientation are future-oriented and motivated by goals they value most. 

On the other hand, people with orientation Away from tend to move away from undesired values (problems). These values are called Push values, values consisting of negative, undesired results, and costs one can avoid in the present. Push values are values that create a sense of aversion from the undesired. As a result, people with Away from orientation are present-oriented and motivated by problems that might arise and require their full attention and concentration in order to be solved.

People, who tend to gravitate towards the Away from direction, are widely known as Problem-solving Thinkers or Solution-oriented Thinkers as they prefer to think, talk, learn about solving problems and spend time on different types of problems. They look for problems and feel the most comfortable when having issues to resolve. For them, all life is problem-solving and the best type of entertainment is brain-work (e.g. engineers, quality assurance experts, finance and controlling specialists). They will always talk and focus on avoiding problems and risk, trying their best to get rid of undesired results. They live in a world of infinite ’’what could go wrong’’ options. 

On the other hand, some people are all about setting and/or achieving goals. They tend to move in the Towards direction and they are known as Goal-oriented Thinkers. When working, managing or communicating with a goal-oriented person, it can be seen and heard that goals are above everything. Every day, they will do something to get closer to their final destination and to get what they want and truly value.  The clear picture of the desired, future outcome is what motivates them the best. For instance, sales professionals, business development experts, entrepreneurs, and business leaders are strongly goal-oriented thinkers.

It is often said that problem-oriented thinkers will see problems even when there are no existing or potential problems. By contrast, goal-oriented people are often ’’blinded’’ by the end goals can easily fall into the trap of thinking that there is nothing that can stop them, and nothing can stand in their way to achieve their goals. No matter in which position we find ourselves, it is important to know that there is no good or bad and there is no right or wrong position. Both types of thinkers are equally valuable. Our main concern should be finding the position precisely and directing our natural way of thinking and acting in order to deliver valuable results.

Knowing our own patterns of thinking and behavior can help us choose the right profession, career development, or exploring opportunities for entrepreneurship. Knowing other people’s thinking patterns is essential for finding the right coworkers or team members and directing their further development. While raising self-awareness regarding our own and other’s patterns, we can learn to communicate more effectively. 

We cannot change from Problem-solving thinker to Goal-oriented thinker or vice versa, but we can learn how to communicate in a language that often differs from our own.

How to learn reading thinking preferences regarding direction?

Just listen! Ask the right questions! Here are some examples: 

  • Start with a question like “We are starting with a new project. Would you like to know more about what we want to achieve?” Depending on the answer, you will be able to lead the further conversation in the language of a problem-oriented or goal-oriented thinker. If the person is interested in the problems we aim to solve with the project, with minimizing possible risks, they will have everything ready because they will see problems in different forms and they will want to hear that there will be a lot of problems coming their way, waiting to be solved. Interest in problems can vary from person to person; make sure to follow a pattern as much as you can if you go too far and ‘’lose’’ the pace and connection, start pacing again till the connection is strong enough to continue the conversation. 
  • With goal-oriented people use the main and the most important weapon you can, GOALS. Talk about goals, help them see the goals clearly and try to get them excited for those goals
  • You can try with different questions, for example: What is it important to you when looking for a company to work for? What kind of organizational culture do you value? When choosing the next destination for your vacation, what is the most important to you? When deciding to attend a global learning and development event, what do you want to achieve? 

There is no better way to learn about your own and other people’s thinking patterns than by practice. Start with a question, listen to the answer and lead the conversation in the right direction to find out more about someone’s thinking patterns, this time, regarding the direction.