Can you remember the last time you went out for dinner, say for a big night out at a fancy restaurant?

Picture you and your partner, arriving at the front door of the restaurant in an Uber (sitting in a police RBT line-up, panicking about losing your drivers’ licence is not a great way to finish off a great night!).

You walk inside and are met by the host/hostess, who shows you to the table while you check out the décor. You take your seats and receive the menus.

So, how do you go about ordering your dinner?

Do you analyse and evaluate every item on the menu, mentally weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of each dish before making a final decision regarding your entrée and main?

Perhaps you take a good look around the restaurant, getting a feel for the vibe and checking out the other tables to see what other people are having before making a call?

Or indeed, have you already made a decision about what you’re going to have for the main course before you get out of the Uber?

The Restaurant Story is a great way to get a sense of how we as individuals prefer to make decisions.

“Thinkers” like to engage the outer layer or cortex area of their brain, the area where we access logical and structured thought.

“Feelers” access the limbic region in the middle of the brain, operating on energy, sensing, feeling and emotions in deciding what to do.

“Knowers” are aligned with the ancient, reptilian basal region of the brain just above the spinal cord. This is a world based on instinct, intuition and “gut” decisions.

So, let’s extend the story…

Imagine you’re sitting at the restaurant table with your partner, having a conversation while waiting for entrees to be served.

Does the conversation feel easy and natural, or is it a bit more like picking your way through a recently occupied stretch of foreign territory strewn with landmines?

The Think Feel Know behavioural model, although simplistic in concept, also provides a great way of figuring out how we prefer to be communicated with:

  • “Thinkers” crave facts and figures and like clarity and rationale
  • “Feelers” are sensitive to the environment and will immediately pick up on any misalignment or lack of engagement in the conversation
  • “Knowers” will rapidly make up their mind and will move on if the conversation doesn’t get to the point quickly.

It’s important to emphasise here, that none of these communication styles is inherently good or bad. We typically, however, exhibit a tendency to favour one or two of these “styles” over the others in certain situations.

So, if we consider this model in a business context, competent leaders must actively engage with their organisations in building great relationships, managing high performing teams and enabling desired outcomes. Great leadership starts with effective communication.

But here’s the trick: communication is actually not about you!

So next time you’re out at that fancy restaurant, see if you can work out whether your partner’s style is more “thinker”, “feeler” or “knower”….

Peter Wilkinson – Director, Sam Wilko Advisory

Author of “The Steel Ceiling: Achieving Sustainable Growth in Engineering and Construction” Wiley, 2023