When You’re a Demonstrator Communicating with a Contemplator

When you’re used to looking on the bright side and accentuating the positive, a contemplator can seem like a bit of a downer. Their detail-oriented worldview is extremely focused on avoiding past mistakes and lowering expectations for the future. Contemplators are perfectionists, and they have a knack for finding things that don’t meet their exacting standards. Meanwhile, you try to make the best of everything.

The contemplator sends their food back to the kitchen if it’s not hot enough; you’ve been known to eat the wrong menu item without voicing a word of complaint. You enjoy grand plans and big brainstorms, the contemplator works exhaustively on one small idea, trying to smooth out every last flaw. Can the two of you hope to communicate and make decisions together? Yes, if you each focus on your strengths and try to understand each other’s worldview.

Quick Tips for Demonstrator-Contemplator Conversations

  • DO listen to and appreciate their enumeration of details.
  • DO help refocus on the big picture if the conversation gets too focused on minutiae.
  • DO feel free to focus on facts, not on the negative emotions attached to the facts.
  • DO encourage the contemplator to rank options, since no one option is perfect.
  • DON’T let the contemplator keep picking apart the decision after it’s been made.

A Demonstrator and Contemplator Must Play to Each Other’s Strengths

Your sunny, upbeat nature may irritate them sometimes, but when it comes to choosing between difficult choices in situations where ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist, you can be a contemplator’s strongest ally, expanding horizons and creating paths where none existed before. However, before you can help you’ll need to slow down a little and give the contemplator time to explain all of the details and pitfalls weighing on their mind. If you rush this part of the conversation, there will never be a decision.

After you let the contemplator air the details, help refocus them on the larger issue. Without this help refocusing, contemplators can get stuck in a loop, going over the same details again and again as they try to find a solution that solves every problem forever. (Hint: these sorts of solutions never exist in the real world.)

Use facts to refocus the contemplator on the problem at hand. Ignore any statements of the form “But you always,” or “We never.” You should be aiming for a consensus, and you’re just the person to forge one. Since no option is perfect, have the contemplator list the pluses and minuses of each, and then score them and put them in order.

One tool that many contemplators find helpful is a PMI chart. In a PMI, you can go through each option together and list its pluses, its minuses, and anything you find interesting. You’re essential for this part of the process, because your optimistic nature will allow you to see positives that the contemplator overlooks. Meanwhile, the contemplator will be able to flag negatives that you miss. Working together, you’ll be able to settle on the best course of action more quickly than either of you could working alone.

Once the two of you reach a decision, move on to something else. Contemplators have a tendency to revisit decisions they’ve already made and second guess themselves. You can’t stop this process, but you can implement the agreed-upon solution before the second-guessing starts, since it won’t actually result in new information or a better course of action.

Learn more about communicating with a contemplator here.