How do you like to have information given to you so that you can take it in, absorb it, and really understand it? Some people like to hear all the details, and others like to see the big picture first. However, our tendency is to give people information based on the way we like to receive it.

So, if I’m a big-picture person and I’m talking to somebody who prefers to hear details, it’s like we’re talking on two totally different levels, which can be frustrating. And this just doesn’t always apply to one-on-one conversations, it has broader implications. As an example, I was working with a public broadcasting organization recently, doing a Myers-Briggs workshop, discussing this same information. A light bulb went off for them as they applied it to their membership drive.

They said “When we keep talking about, renew your membership now because it’s the right thing to do, then the phones never rang”. But then they said “When we broke it down into, we need 10 members at Level 1, or we need $10,000 by 3:00 pm, then the phones rang off the hook.” If we consider that response, in addition to the Myers-Briggs research that says 75 percent of the population has a detail (Sensing) preference and 25 percent of the population has a big picture (Intuitive) preference, then that makes sense that more people responded to a plea with more detail than just the big picture.

Because you don’t always know what preference your audience is going to have, then you really have to cover all your bases by talking about the big picture first when you’re giving information, and then follow up afterwards with all the details.