Is Your Communication Style Internal or External?

communication styles in relationship

In a relationship, communication is key. However, most people are not taught their processing and communication styles. This can lead to misunderstanding and conflict, especially if you and your partner have a different communication style. What is an internal and external processor? An internal processor is someone who thinks to talk. He will likely spend time gathering his thoughts before responding. An external processor is someone who talks to think. She will likely gain clarity through talking things out.

There is no “better” way of thinking and communicating, however, it is important to know how you are communicating with others close to you. Having good communication can increase your connection and decrease conflict in your relationship.

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How an Internal Processor Thinks and Communicates

Internal processors do their thinking and processing in their heads. This allows them to feel confident in what they are saying so that they can communicate clearly. An internal processor will think to talk.

Things to know about an internal processor:

-Often need to take time alone

-Likes to play out the scenario in his head

-Listens well

-Can use journaling, walks, drives, etc. for processing time

-Is conscious and intentional in what they say

-Okay with some thoughts not being heard/known by others

-Needs to feel safe to speak

-Only communicates solidified ideas

If you are in a relationship with an internal processor, know that most of the time they mean what they say. They have spent time coming up with their best solutions and ideas and need to be validated in that. When they ask for alone time, it is so they can operate in their best way, not to offend you.

How an External Processor Thinks and Communicates

External processors do their thinking outside of their heads. This means they use other people and spaces to help sort through and solidify ideas. An external processor will talk in order to think clearly.

Things to know about an external processor:

-Uses talking to work out solutions

-Wants to “run it by others” when they have a thought or idea

-Easily articulates in the moment (even if it’s not a solidified thought)

-Modifies opinions, ideas, etc. as they speak

-Says what comes to mind without much filter

-Needs to have space to speak without judgement

-Uses masterminds, meetings, think tanks, etc. to get clarity

If you are in a relationship with an external processor, know that they will say more than they truly mean. They need you to dialogue through something with them without judgement or offense. When they ask to “run something by you,” you do not need to take it to heart or get anxious about what they are discussing. They will clarify as time goes on.

Related: How the 5 Love Languages Impact Your Relationship After Baby

Internal and External Processors in Conflict

If you and your partner have different processing styles, it can be easy to feel at odds with one another in conflict.

An internal processor may feel hurt by an external processors unsolidified conversation. They may also feel unsafe to share if they believe the external processor will push them into conversation without time and space to think. The internal processors is thoughtful, but can struggle to move forward.

An external processor can feel hurt by an internal processors silence or distance. They may feel unsafe if they are not included in the thinking of their partner.

By the time an internal processor has worked through a situation, the external processor may already have moved on from it after talking to a friend. An external processor may push their partner’s boundaries with the desire to work things out in real time. The external processor is good at sharing her experience and thoughts, but can spend time pulling others into half-baked ideas.

Tips for Better Communication

If you are learning to better communicate with your partner, regardless of your styles, kudos to you! No one has a perfect relationship and we are all continually learning. As you are on your journey here are a few tips:

  1. Acknowledge (verbally and mentally) your differences without one person being “right” and one “wrong.”
  2. If you are an internal processor: Give your partner a specific time for returning to the conversation. Don’t leave her hanging.
  3. If you are an external processor: Let your partner know when you are thinking through something and are not giving absolutes.
  4. Work with a third party to hear you out, help you connect the dots, and give you strategies for improvement.

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