Four Thinking Styles; Preacher, Prosecutor, Politian or Scientist - Which are You?


There are 4 main thinking styles:

  • Preacher (telling others they're wrong),
  • Prosecutor (focusing on winning arguments),
  • Politician (saying what others want to hear)
  • Scientist (open to rethinking ideas based on new information).

Develop "intellectual humility": be aware you might be wrong, be open to changing your opinions, and approach situations as a learner, not an expert.

“It’s a sign of wisdom to avoid believing every thought that enters your mind. It’s a mark of emotional intelligence to avoid internalizing every feeling that enters your heart.” Adam M. Grant

‘Modes of Thinking’ is a fascinating subject because although we all utilize more than one thinking style, we tend to default to a particular favourite. In his blockbuster book Think Again, author and organizational psychologist  Adam Grant developed and published the ideas Wharton’s Phil Tetlock delivered in his paper, theorizing three dominant modes of thinking and why the fourth one he added dwarfs them. 

Let’s unpack this new theory and see where you default to. It also helps to identify which thinking style your family, friends, and business colleagues use, so you can learn how to coax them to present a better version of themselves.

Four Popular Thinking Styles

You may use different thinking modes for different situations. To sell a business idea, Grant points out, you’d use optimistic, big-picture thinking, but keeping the books for that business means switching over to detail-oriented thought processes, and dealing with people on any level always goes further with empathy than criticism.

But let’s list his four modes and illustrate them.

  1. Preacher - this style is founded on the need to ‘be right’ and the communication manner is ‘telling’ others with the view to persuading them to your way of thinking.
  2. Prosecutor -  this mode is a tad more aggressive or insistent, in that to win an argument you punt your evidence and minimize that of others.
  3. Politician - this thinking pattern seems to be more flexible as the posture is to lobby or say what others want to hear to get their approval, but it may not change what you think.
  4. Scientist -  this transcendent way of thinking is about being willing to rethink or re-examine your thoughts and beliefs in the light of the views others hold.

     “When you’re wrong, it’s not something to be depressed about. Say, ‘Hey, I discovered something!”― Adam M. Grant

Opt for ‘How’ rather than ‘Why’

Scientist mode means LISTENING. It means always turning up as the student and not the expert, even if you imagine you are! When you pay attention to others you’ll soon figure out which thinking style is dominating and where to focus your efforts. It’s all about depolarizing situations but you’ll only get others to change their minds if you’re willing to open your mind too.

If we treat our opinions as hypotheses rather than set ideologies so that we allow room for new experiments and observations. If what we thought appears to hold water, that’s great - for now, but remaining ever curious is the mindset of the Scientist pattern.

Go easy on others whose ideas seem ludicrous. Challenging them with, 'Why?’ i.e. ‘Why would you say or think or believe such a crazy idea?’ only makes people dig their heels in, get defensive and double-down on their position.

Instead, reframe it. Try saying, ‘Whatever makes sense to you, let’s try to figure out how things would work practically speaking for all of us.’ They call it ‘motivational interviewing’ but it’s all part of Scientist thinking, which has also been otherwise named; ‘inverse charisma’

Mastering Inverse Charisma

“When you’re with someone with inverse charisma, you find yourself lighting up and excited to share. It’s not that people with inverse charisma have given you this ‘light’. Instead, they’ve given you the park and space to shine the light that’s already within you.” - Kara McDuffee

Charisma is a term that encompasses someone everyone is easily drawn to and we most often feel some have it and some don’t. Inverse charisma is possible for open-minded, expansive people who master being unattached to outcomes.

Approaching any dialogue with a set or preconceived idea is controlling and will distance people from you rather than draw them to you. Deploying inverse charisma describes the enigmatic quality of a great listener, and yes, that’s all you have to do to get the best out of anyone. 

Listening long enough with true compassion and being absolutely present with full attention will find people talking them in and out of things, sifting through mitigating factors, and solving their problems all by themselves. They’ll tell you how much you helped but all you did was give them your time and attention. That’s inverse or reverse charisma in action.

Intellectual Humility

A little more listening to understand, a little less trying to convince, and a lot more intellectual humility would do everyone a world of good.”― Tania Israel

Scientist mode is characterized by intellectual humility. When you experience it, you don’t get stuck in your go-to style - be it preacher, prosecutor, or politician mode. Leaders such as Jeff Bezos, for example specifically look for partners who know how and when to change their minds with humility and growth. Benjamin Franklin found fault with his prosecutor propensity, advising that less time should be spent arguing a thing and more time searching for improvements.

Tips for cultivating intellectual Humility

  • Remain aware enough every day to remember something you’re wrong about
  • Your opinions are just that, so practice changing them in the light of new factors
  • Opt for student mode, even if you think you're the expert

In summary: Whatever your go-to thinking style is, understand that it’s not ineffective of itself. It will however seldom serve you well and used only when you are aware of which mode you’re using and why. The more you use the superior Scientist mode, the more unity and oneness you generate, the less stress you’ll feel and the more cooperation you’ll engender.

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical or psychological advice. Please consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance.

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