Ways of Thinking 

Our brains work in different ways, and some people think differently than others. One way to look at how we all think in different ways is to picture a continuum. On one end of that continuum are people who think in boxes where each individual box is separate from all the other boxes. On the other end of the continuum are people who think in ways in which everything is connected to everything. I call those two ends of the thinking continuum boxes thinking and spaghetti thinking. We all fall somewhere along the length of that continuum. Some of us tend to be more of a boxes thinker, and some are more of a spaghetti thinker. I am one of those people whose thinking sometimes tends to be toward the boxes thinking end of the continuum 

The Clean-the-Kitchen Box 

One of my wife’s love languages is acts of service. She feels appreciated and loved when I do something for her that would normally be something she might need to do. Since she appreciates it when I help out around the house, I try to clean the kitchen frequently.  

On one particular night, I was in my kitchen-cleaning box, cleaning the kitchen as I normally would and feeling really good that I was doing something nice for her. I emptied the dishwasher, scrubbed off the dishes that were in the sink, put the dishes into the dishwasher, opened the cabinet door, got the detergent out, poured it in the dishwasher, closed the door, pushed the button, put the detergent away, and closed the cabinet door.  

What Boxes Thinking Missed 

As I was completing this process, my middle daughter and my wife were behind me on the other side of the kitchen island having a slow, quiet chuckle. Slowly, the chuckle got louder and louder. Their laughing was contagious, so I started laughing too, even though I didn’t know what the laughter was about because I was still going through my clean-the-kitchen box.  

I then turned around and discovered they were laughing at me. I said, “Okay, what are you laughing at?” 

My daughter said, “Dad, are you ever going to use that?” 

I turned around, and right there in front of me on the kitchen counter was the dishwashing detergent. It was turned upside down, so I would use the last portion.  

I looked at her and asked, “How long has that been sitting there?”  

She replied, “Three nights.”  

Appreciating the Boxes Thinking  

For three nights, I had almost knocked this thing over while cleaning the kitchen yet had totally missed it sitting there because I had been in my kitchen-cleaning box that is done the same way every time. So, as we laughed together, I told them, “Don’t move the detergent out of my kitchen-cleaning box because I won’t see it.”  

While I was inside my Clean-the-Kitchen Box, I completely missed something that was obvious to my wife and daughter. My boxes thinking made for a good laugh for all of us. But, now, all three of us have a better understanding of the differences between boxes thinking and spaghetti thinking.  

Years ago, I would have been offended and would have been hurt that they laughed at me. But now, equipped with an understanding of what I just shared with you and how people think in different ways, we now can laugh at those situations, which improves our relationships.  

As transformational leaders, it is important to appreciate the differences in the way people think so we will be able to communicate better and create better relationships. After all, don’t we all want better relationships?  

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.