It has been interesting to observe how differently people have been coping with this extended period of isolation. Some are enjoying this time, perhaps even thriving, completely content living in bubbles with immediate family, pets, and Netflix. Others are not handling it quite so well, feeling disconnected, bored, and cabin feverish. Health of self and loved ones, job stability and other external factors play a part in how we manage this situation, but how well we cope has a lot more to do with who we are inside, our personality types, and our thinking styles.

First, consider introverts versus extroverts. Many assume extroverts are outgoing, the life of the party, while introverts are quiet wallflowers. This is a misunderstanding. According to an article in Fast Company, the simplest explanation is the place from which people derive their energy characterizes them as an introvert or an extrovert. Extroverts are recharged being in large crowds while introverts lose energy being around people for long periods of time, recharging by being alone or in smaller groups. This concept of introvert versus extrovert is a spectrum, with most people somewhere in between the two extremes. Identifying what recharges us can help create a balance between activities that create energy and those that drain it.

Second, consider thinking styles and preferences, meaning how one’s intellectual abilities and knowledge are applied to a situation or problem. This also plays a part in individual reactions to this prolonged isolation. Think about how someone who is highly analytical is reacting now. They are probably constantly watching the news, reading scientific studies about vaccines, and intensely tracking daily case increases and decreases.

Understanding HBDI thinking styles

One of the most popular models of thinking styles and preferences is Herrmann’s HBDI Model. The HBDI model gives insight into our own thinking, identifying how we prefer to enter situations and why we prioritize certain types of information. The model can be helpful in recognizing how activities motivate individuals, as well as how behavior can change under pressure and stress.  As a leader, understanding thinking styles can help break through productivity or engagement issues that may not be as easy to identify in a remote environment.

Let’s recap the four quadrants identified as the HBDI thinking styles.

Green thinking style

Those in the green or practical quadrant are process-oriented, organized, and reliable. They have an affinity toward the “what” and like making detailed project plans and calendaring to-do items. They will discuss risk mitigation and maintain a standard of consistency.

Greens may find it stressful to constantly adapt new ways of working and natural process tendencies. If they get too sidelined by having to change too often, they can become frustrated and may not be able to work optimally toward a solution. In an environment where “unprecedented” is the norm, practical greens may face more anxiety due to the pace of change and lack of a clear path forward. Leaders or team members of green thinkers can help them identify a routine in the new normal and plan next steps. Remember to answer the question “what” for greens, as in “what’s next.”

Blue thinking style

Those in the blue or analytical quadrant like hard facts and figures. Blues think in terms of “how.” They are highly analytical with an affinity toward financial analysis and technical understanding and often described as rational, logical, and precise.

For blues, not being in control can be frustrating. This thinking style is also motivated by immediate short-term wins, which can be hard to come by in this time. Blues can easily become hyper-focused on numbers and data, and miss opportunities to involve other people to improve decision making quality and solve issues. During this time, leaders and team members of blue thinkers can help by maintaining connection and offering assistance and perspective. Remember to answer the question “how” as in “how do new processes look in terms of communication, collaboration, and decision making.”

Red thinking style

Those in the red quadrant are known as relational thinkers who are dominantly people oriented. They are considering the “who” or interpersonal side of situations. Red thinkers anticipate other’s feelings and pick up on non-verbal clues of stress and interpersonal difficulties. They like to teach, share about themselves, and are often very intuitive.

Reds will miss human contact and at the same time, may become overwhelmed with empathy for other people. A relational red may be low energy or drained due to all the alone time and independent working. A red relies on their ability to read the room which is much harder on a Zoom call or email. Productivity may suffer as a result. Help energize your red team members by connecting with personal phone calls. Set aside some time on virtual meetings for non-work-related sharing, like new favorite takeout restaurants or team building questions. Remember to include the “who” for high red thinkers, meaning connection and collaboration with teams and leaders.

Yellow thinking style

Those with a dominant yellow or experiential style are strategic, creative thinkers and are also on the intuitive side of the model. Yellow thinkers ask “why” and see the big picture. They are comfortable with change and ambiguity and adept at synthesizing disconnected information to figure out a path forward. They are often described as innovative for their ability to recognize new possibilities.

Remember that the yellow experiential thinkers can be comfortable with change and ambiguity so they may not be showing signs of anxiety related to change. However, they may be moving quickly through new challenges and leaving the team behind without communicating. As a yellow leader/team member, remember to bring the team along. What may feel like overcommunicating due to your intuitive nature may be just the data and rationale the blues and greens are looking for. Do not forget to gather opinions before moving forward too quickly with new projects or ways of working. In helping yellows work through frustrations, remember to explain the “why.”

Stressors based on thinking preference

From these descriptions, we begin to see how environments can be considered positive and energizing for some and potentially draining for others. Understanding thinking preferences helps leaders recognize challenges facing team members to help them overcome anxieties and productivity challenges by speaking their language.

An individualized self-care plan

Despite primary thinking preferences, self-care activities are most effective when we engage in an array of things that service our whole brains. A red thinker may intuitively perform self-care by calling someone they love but should not ignore other forms of self-care that feed a different part of the brain – meditating alone, for example. Below are some ideas for self-care, based on HBDI thinking preference. Remember, it’s about balance, so the most beneficial approach is one that draws from each thinking preference, with the ratio of self-care activities dependent on your own HBDI profile.

For individuals with a primarily green thinking style, list-making is practically your love language. Examples of self-care activities are to create a gratitude list, list of weekly accomplishments, or identify quarantine goals for self-development. Most importantly, use the strength of planning to calendar time for self-care, whatever the activity. But resist putting pressure on creating a routine that looks the same every day. That could be counterproductive and likely is not achievable. Think longer-term over a week or two to set a routine around activities that create positive energy.

Blue analytical thinkers are likely deep into the numbers and statistics surrounding COVID-19. In this case, make sure to take a break – whether it is breaking to wash hands or practice deep breathing. Also consider the time spent reading the news and catching up on social media. The best self-care might be limiting daily consumption of the news to only business-related outlets for 15 minutes a day.

For those thinkers who are high red, the abrupt end to regular interpersonal interaction has likely taken its toll. Everyone needs a level of personal engagement, but reds rely heavily on human connection. Take time to create feel-good opportunities with people who lift your spirits. Whether that is a video call with a loved one every few days (set a goal based on how low your tank is), scheduling a virtual cocktail hour, or baking lessons with friends once a week.

Yellow strategic thinkers tend to be creative and described as natural explorers. Opportunities for self-care include being in nature, taking work outside, or taking walks to untap your explorer side. If you don’t consider yourself a creative person in terms of hobbies, perhaps reading or listening to podcasts from someone you admire are worth a try.

We’re all still wrestling with what this new normal looks like, and it keeps changing. Find balance, evaluate what brings you joy and energy, and try a few new things. While this tool has personal implications in terms of identifying self-care activities, we continually turn to this assessment to align teams and improve communication both within organizations and externally with customers, suppliers and distributors.  If you are interested in learning more about HBDI, please drop us a line  for more information.