How Do You Communicate? Process Oriented or Solution Focused?

Posted June 11, 2012 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

The two biggest complaints that show up in couples who come into my office are sex and communication. I started the sex conversation using the 50 Shades of Grey book as a catalyst in my last post. To continue the conversation, let’s go after the communication. It’s helpful for people to check into their mode of communication and understand self before trying to understand other. Let’s talk about two types of communication, process oriented and solution focused.

Are you process oriented or solution focused?

Process Oriented
1. I give quite a few details about a situation, problem or concern.
2. Sometimes I don’t need a specific solution, I usually feel better just talking it through.
3. Solutions offered during my processing aren’t helpful; they just slow down the process.

Solution Focused
1. I give just enough information necessary to come up with a solution
2. I am looking for specific answers or action steps.
3. The details sometimes get in the way of finding a solution.

Why is this important? There are often jokes on sitcoms where the female in the relationship typically gets mad at her male counterpart about how he doesn’t just listen to her, he’s always trying to fix it. She is a process-oriented speaker and he’s solution focused.

If I know that I’m a processed oriented speaker, I can teach my significant other how to listen in a way that might benefit me. I might suggest to my partner, “I know you to help me come up with an answer but I’d love for you to try asking me more questions so that I can keep processing.”
If I’m a solution-focused speaker and I’m in a relationship with a processing person, I might say something like, “I’m looking for a solution. I wonder if you can listen for possible conclusions.”

It might be fun to pay attention to how you’re speaking for the rest of the day and come back to see which one best first for you. Ask your partner or friend which category they might fall into and chat more about how that may impact the way you two communicate.

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”