Data Centers

10 curses of the analytical thinker

Being a left-brain thinker can be an asset in the IT field. But as Alan Norton observes, it's not without its shortcomings.

The average person may envision IT as the home of the geek. I prefer to think of IT as the kingdom of the analytical thinker. Analytical thinkers, or left-brain thinkers, are straight-line thinkers. Logic, not emotion, rules in the land of the analytical. The very traits that make an analytical person poor with people make them good with computers. And that is perhaps why IT is loaded with socially inept information junkies who would prefer to hang out by themselves instead of attending a party.

I am a highly analytical person myself. This has served me well in my analyst/programmer jobs over the years. But I have also experienced the many downsides of being analytical. Perhaps you have experienced one or more of these curses of the analytical thinker yourself.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Information addict

Analytical thinkers just can't get enough information. They devour Web pages about everything from the weather to the latest high tech gadget. They are gluttons for online discussions, but they're more often lurkers than participants. They have voracious appetites for facts and figures of any kind. They head straight for the specs page when shopping for anything more technologically sophisticated than an alarm clock. The siren call of the Internet cries out, "Step right up to the buffet -- all the information you can eat for one low price".

I can understand how this behavior might be really annoying to a family member. Please understand it is natural for humans to seek after information -- just not as compulsively as the analytical thinker seeks it. Come to think of it, this propensity for information binging might explain the swelled heads of a few IT personnel I have encountered over the years.

2: Vacillatory

Most people see only one side of a controversial issue. Not the analytical thinker. To him, every issue has pros and cons. To him, the glass can be both half full and half empty at the same time. The analytical will inevitably be known as Dr. Doom to some and the eternal optimist to others. Being both a pessimist and an optimist gives the impression to friends that the analytical is wishy-washy, assuming he has any friends.

3: Indecisive

Because the analytical likes to gather as many facts as possible before making an informed decision, he may be perceived by others as being indecisive. The phrase "lead or get off the pot" could apply to the analytical manager who is so busy gathering information that he often overlooks the value of a quick, definitive decision.

4: Insensitive

I was once explaining parts of a client/server system to Mark, one of our mainframe guys. I pointed to the screen and said something like, "As you can see right here..." There was only one problem with that gesture and statement: Mark was totally blind. I was so embarrassed that I froze and said nothing. Had Mark been able to see he would have seen a flushed face with perspiration beginning to form at the hairline. This kind of "foot in mouth" behavior isn't that unusual for an analytical. I now realize that I should have had the courtesy to acknowledge my gaffe and apologize, but words failed me at the time. It may be more than 15 years late, but Mark please accept this apology for my insensitivity.

5: Habitual

"You want me to do what-- skip lunch? Are you kidding?" Missing lunch to complete some inane pet project for my manager was physically upsetting. My blood pressure rose. My stress hormones rose. Yes, I was angry. Stand well clear of a hypoglycemic logician when sustenance has been withheld!

It can be hard to for analyticals to break their habits. They prefer the predictable, daily routine and are resistant to change. A left-brain thinker may lack motivation when starting a new project, but once started, they are like a persistent bulldog working to complete the project. It's not that they can't accept change; analyticals would just prefer it not intrude upon their comfort zone

6: Socially inept

I once told a young lady who I was friends with that she was overweight. Well, she did ask. I never got a chance to tell her that it, the weight, was in all the right places. Analyticals take matters literally -- too literally. It is not the intention of the analytical to be critical but rather to provide an honest assessment, although it is almost always perceived as criticism. Unfortunately for the well-intentioned analytical, people don't like an "honest assessment" of their looks, behavior, general hygiene, or body fat index. The irony is that these socially oblivious, albeit honest assessors usually don't take criticism well themselves.

7: Skeptical

"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have said this. Politicians, of all people, know that it's hard to fool a logical thinker. If you want to sell anything to left-brain thinkers, you'd better explain why they need it. An analytical needs facts, not feelings or persuasive platitudes.

If you are a manager trying to convince a team of programmers that a project can be completed two months ahead of schedule, you'd better come armed with facts to support how such a miracle can be achieved. The pushback you are almost certain to receive is a predictable response from the cynical analytical.

8: Poor marketers

The very thing that makes analyticals good product reviewers is what makes them poor at the sales pitch. They thoroughly and accurately note both the positive and negative attributes of the product they are reviewing. One of the important skills needed to land a job is self promotion. While others may exaggerate their positive traits, the analytical person does not. Stating that you prefer working with computers rather than people may be an honest and unbiased analysis but is perceived as a black mark by the interviewer. I know I am weak at promoting myself. I have worked at improving my marketing skills. But if I could get away with it, I would hire a marketing specialist for my next job interview!

9: Politically incorrect

When I write I try to address the very real possibility that there might actually be personages of the female persuasion reading my musings. I try to throw in at least one" he or she" in recognition of this. The truth is that I put readability ahead of political correctness. Right or wrong, I believe that including references to both genders is tedious for the patient reader. So ladies, please forgive my political incorrectness. I am indeed honored to have you as a guest.

10: Loners

We analyticals would rather spend time alone with a good book or movie than with people. It's not that we dislike people, per se. We just find them boring, uninspiring, and mundane. To the all seeing and all knowing analytical, the average person is like the emperor in the story "The Emperor's New Clothes"-- there's nothing there. I mean, really, when was the last time you found someone who wanted to discuss the theory of relativity or the law of diminishing marginal returns?

The bottom line

Sure, the analytical thinker can appear to be cold, insensitive, and logical, somewhat akin to the personality of Mr. Spock, but the world needs these attributes. After all, it would take only one analytical lemming to save the others from mythological disaster by telling his friends, "Hey guys, I don't think this cliff diving idea is so good after all."

Every curse is a blessing in disguise. Because analytical thinkers like information in tabular format, I give you the 10 blessings for the aforementioned curses:

Each curse can be viewed as a blessing.

Give your favorite analytical person a break the next time you want to scream at him. The characteristics you find so annoying do have positive benefits to society.

Author's Note:  While these traits may apply in part or in whole to me and other analytical people, we are all complex creatures. It is not my intention to imply that such a simplistic view applies to all analytical thinkers.

About

Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a wri...

466 comments
nikkimw
nikkimw

I LOVE this article. It literally describes me 100%_ to the 'T'. I wish I could get all my family to read this and actually understand me. Anybody who gets to know me does see another side of me that most people will not because they're too self-engaged to take time to know a person who seems like they don't like people.

subduedjoy
subduedjoy


I'm a female.

Great points! All except one fit me. I do not have a need for predictable, daily routine. I'm always in a state of flux due to my constant information gathering and indecisiveness.

The sandwiching technique works well for those of us who are often perceived as arrogant or a know-it-all. I try to give a complement, then a critique, and then another complement.
 

I especially like the insensitive = child-like naivety curse. I will have to use that the next time someone calls me insensitive. :)

Joe90sw
Joe90sw

The thing I need to break away from most is analysing myself too much.

sholess
sholess

I am a female and I love your posting. Being an analytical thinker drives people crazy. They just don't understand my thought pattern. Improvements is needed for our curses, but sometime I seem to enjoy the curses, because in the Accounting field it turn out to be a blessing. I glad to have stumble up on this page now I don't feel weir anymore.   Thanks

Styliano
Styliano

Since we are analytical minds then we should exploit this privilege and always seek for the improvement of our curses - the solution is actually very simple (in theory), calibration!!!

ozdealsmegastore
ozdealsmegastore

whoa! I think i found my community. I am not the only one solving a problem with a words "NEVER GIVE UP". Always seeking a solution to every problem. Always thinking the other possibilities that is based by a fact. Anyone knows what job that is suited for us Analytical thinkers? 

Joe90sw
Joe90sw

I'm a construction manager. Suits my thinking perfect.. It's the high turn over of new faces that I struggle a bit with.

hiskid
hiskid

Being the analytical thinker that I am, I couldn't Ignore the fact that you apologized to the blind guy..... 

On a computer

WITH WORDS

mrlannigan
mrlannigan

@hiskid  And being the analytical thinker that I am, I couldn't ignore the fact that you have completely disregarded the existence of accessibility software (i.e. screen readers).

rajaram0990
rajaram0990

I thought I was always introverted! This makes more sense now :)

JimmyRooney
JimmyRooney

I was amazed reading through this article and how much it described how I am. I am all the time way too analytical with my business, and always have to force myself to just make a decision and move on. Very good read!

mike.codding
mike.codding

I am still thinking about responding to this informative article; the first thing that hit me was this idea, there are 'degrees' in everything.

dcapadona
dcapadona

I would just like to point out that unless the glass is in a vacuum it would be completely full... even if only half was full of water... the other half of the glass would contain air so therefore--100% full of a substance. ---just say'n

mr_bandit
mr_bandit

I am pretty sure Mark did not mind the "as you can see". He knows he is blind. The fact you forgot about it is actually good. I have one hand. I also have a (ahem) second-hand shop filled with (ahem) off-handed puns. I need new glasses - I see two hands. When my wife starts piling stuff on me, I tell her "I only have two hands". I love it when folks forget - they see me && not the lack of the hand. (So far, though, nobody wants to join my club.... :( Otherwise, the list is pretty good. See "portrait of J Random Hacker" - just google it, and compare yourself to the profile.

GrandeMocha
GrandeMocha

Love this list. I've always thought I should say "Computer Nerd" when someone asks what I do. I make spreadsheets of pros and cons for big decisions.

albayaaabc
albayaaabc

why?when i was studying mastering in communication i found my self so close with the music so be nice to love around.

service
service

Reading this made me understand myself a little better, Great article, Thanks!

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

While they CAN lead in a pinch, and sometimes do a decent job of it; that's neither their area of strength or expertise. If you are an outstanding leader, manager, supervisor; it's odds on that you're not an analytical thinker. If you are an analytical thinker, and think you're an outstanding leader; I think it's highly likely you're suffering from an inflated sense of ability.

wompai
wompai

Omg, Alan! Are you my brother!?

gardoglee
gardoglee

As a right brained analytical thinker (yes, Mr. Norton, right brained people can think analytically), I think Mr. Norton missed several points in his analysis. However, that is only to be expected, since the greatest handicap of the left brainer is that they can seldom see that there might be something they are missing. Hubris, Mr. Norton.

ivoyhip
ivoyhip

The point "Politically incorrect" is the only point that I do not agree. I pay attention to political correctness. If I need to do it, I will do it. For example, I will not say "Merry X'mas" to strangers. On the other hand, it is so comfortable for me to say "Merry X'mas" to my extended family and family. (My family, my extended family, and I do not have any reglious.) Here is an additional point. In social networking, what to do is more fun than how to do them. For example, when I go out with friends for movies, I really care about the quality and content of the movies. If the movies suck, that will ruin my day even I am watch them with good friends. Moreover, I enjoy playing sports or broad games with friends because I like sports and broad games. I will feel bored for just chewing fat with friends.

Antediluvian Paladin
Antediluvian Paladin

I consider myself an analytical thinker but I'm not a victim of paralysis of analysis. Matter of fact I usually zero in on the logical conclusion. I once had a college professor tell me to shut up. It wasn???t that I was wrong or anything, she wanted the rest of the class to work out the logical progression for themselves.

lostexpat
lostexpat

I sent this to my girlfriend and jokingly said some of these points sound like me. She replied and said that she's never read a more accurate description of me ever. Darn.

VanierJ
VanierJ

I am not in the It business as per say but manager in high technological business. After reading the analysis, I found myself almost a copy cat of it. Make sure that make every effort will be made that the curses will be moved to the elssing perception. Thanks for th info JV

juliebeman
juliebeman

We can hear what we want to hear, ignore what we don't like, and wander off toward the horizon satisfied that we're just who we like to be, and that everything will be ok.

Shadeburst
Shadeburst

An analytical thinker will read an article like: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/201171791639571583.html and instead of accepting the whole thing as "gospel," will challenge every statement. Then the analytical thinker will be able to formulate an opinion about the article and defend it. With a non-analytical thinker, reading it will probably result in hysteria, either anti-American or anti-Muslim.

lastchip
lastchip

Analytical thinkers perceive others as being thick if they can't hold a conversation at the same intellectual level. That's why, we don't suffer fools gladly, or at least, those we perceive as being fools. It's also probably why most of us have a complete disregard for human remains resources departments and political correctness does not even register. In fact, the day political correctness disappears, is the day we get back to sanity. And yes, I guess that makes me socially inept as well. The real problem is, if I'm honest, I don't care. I'd rather have a few close friends and colleagues that are on the same wavelength as me, rather than being surrounded by incompetent morons. I feel better for that :-)

l_e_cox
l_e_cox

Of course we all have strengths and weaknesses. But one can always work to improve on the weaker points. Finding a "pigeon hole" to live in could be considered safer, but you will give less to life and get less from it if you take this approach. People play a game of limiting their abilities in order to have reasons to fail. But this tendency can be overcome. We need people who are versatile and feel competent in a great variety of situations. Of course you can have a specialty, or several. But the demands of life are better met with a generalist approach. I am no paragon of success. But I feel I have benefited from from living a life of wide experience. I have written poetry and programs, performed music and tax audits, visited Moab and Manhattan. Life will test you. Sometimes you will pass and sometimes you will fail. Either way, you learn.

David Kahl
David Kahl

Parsing every little thing to death.

stephen.challis
stephen.challis

Many thanks for this insight, Alan. It's taken 54 years to find an accurate psychological profile of myself - it's great not only to understand myself at least, but to find that another human being understands not just how I tick, but why. My wife would wearily agree with every word you have written about me!

kimbaslair
kimbaslair

Great article, made me laugh - while most is true for me (except #6, probably 'cause I'm a Gemini) - I found that while #5 rings true as I get going meticulously on a project only to wheel around and find I have too many projects going at once. And since I'm always getting side-tracked w/info overload, it's very hard for me to complete any one of them..lol - but it does get done. I suppose as an ENFJ myself, maybe that's why I constantly play the "devil's advocate". B-/

bphardy
bphardy

Good afternoon to all. How are you all today? Blessed I trust. I loved the article. I would'nt necessarily respond if I didn't. The thing is that I believe this article is written from the social aspect and not a functional one. And if it is written from that aspect, then what is said even though they have some merit is totally useless. Everything about an analytic thinker is beautiful. Because he is able to analyze and research a problem instead of sitting there instead of saying "Well what will my coworkers or my boss think?" There is an old army saying "If something is stupid but it works it's not stupid." Fully I don't agree with the saying because there are a lot of stupid ideas out there that are destroying the world as we speak but the point is that they are working because someone used their brain power and knowledge to analyze the situation. So we can't look at things at how is my coworker or my boss is going to respond to my research or how it's going to appear. If there is a solution to be solved and you have the answer that you have researched. SPEAK UP!!! It could be the result between life and death of a project. Like for instance you said that a analytic thinker thinks of the pros and cons of a project. That's a beautiful aspect because they just don't see a solution they see what could go wrong. And the only problem you saw with this is the friends could appear wishy washy to them. This is not about friends as it is about the project that needs to be solved. And when you see that there is a pro and con to your solution then you know the solution but you also know the risks. One on the things that God blessed me with that I am I am a martial artist and I usually to teach people about descision I use a cute little lesson called the tiger and the dragon. I tell them that the tiger can only react but the dragon is able to react and respond. And I get the person to strike me. I block the blow. And I tell them that is the tiger. The tiger can only respond. And I tell them to strike again. And I block again. And I tell them that was the dragon. The dragon responds just like the tiger but where one way is blocked....I can always find another and I show them an exposed spot where my fist is already at where they were focusing more on the block. Point is where an analytic person just sees a con they see a pro. If I was designing a new design for a space shuttle I have to give the CEO the pros and con's of the rocket what it could accomplish and how it could be faster than any rocket but also what the risk are as far as having a rocket that fast. We just can't say. This rocket is going to be fast and greater than any rocket! And give not one possible risk or flaw about the rocket. That's fantasy land. It's looking at both sides of the coin. It's not wishy washy It's seeing EVERYTHING! So I think that it is a good article but I think this article is written more from a social aspect and not a functional one. Because that is in the end why we have jobs. Not to make friends but to get the job done. Comradere is good as far as office dynamic and able to work together, but in the end they hired YOU for a purpose and that was to better the workplace with your skills and also enhance the environment and did I mention making the company money? Friendship in the business world can't come close to that!! So analytic thinkers are beautiful people because they are their own persons which is dwindling in this society. True revolutionaries that are able to get out there and say I have an idea that just might solve this problem. The curse chart that was supplied. Every curse that was on there was written from a social perspective but the blessings are the things you should be looking at because the social dosen't matter hardly because your're maintaing the blessings in those areas from being an analytical thinker, then you will guarantees you three things that the social side of the curses can't give. Peace of mind that you are your own man, job security, and a bigger bank and chedder than the other guy. Welcome to surviving in the corporate world! Oh and by the way, there are people who like to discuss the theory of relativity or the law of diminishing marginal returns? You just have to...FIND THEM! Just like I found people that God blessed me to talk about interest about the bible and other topics. It all in God's hands and his provision. Thank you so much for letting me share. May God bless you all truly and greatly. Sincerely Yours, Blanton P. Hardy

keythah
keythah

I was with you until #9. It's attitudes like this that make my life difficult. It's not about "political correctness," it's about acknowledging that women do, indeed, exist. Some of us are even *gasp* like you. Also, addressing us as "ladies" like we're outsiders? Not helping. Instead of pointing out that you don't actually acknowledge the existence of women normally (which is really where it counts), you could've just left it alone, which would have been the far better option.

johnspinuzzi
johnspinuzzi

Indeed, one of the problems I have had to deal with is my own ego along with perceived "superiority". At 54 yrs. I know that 'analyticals' are not necessarily superior, but we come across as thinking we are, and many times we DO think so! For me this was compounded by the fact that I could analyze what someone else was doing and imitate it. My best friend in high school, a water skier, tried for 30 minutes to make me wipe out on my first skiing run, finally shutting down the boat and refusing to ever let me ski again! Thus has been my life - a lonely ride when you can do anything that your "friends" can do. I have had to learn to sometimes play 'dumb' or just not show them up - whether it be analysis or physical things.

Demondialer
Demondialer

mmm.. You got a point there.to think about All these are facts mentioned ..and straigt on the ??? I whould say! Its fun being a analytical thinker!

Demondialer
Demondialer

mmm.. You got a poin there, to think about it All these are facts mentioned ..and straigt on the ??? I whould say !

nomadh
nomadh

I didn't want to be around people because they didn't make sense. It was confusing and upsetting. It was later when I found other people like me that I found I wanted to be around those people. They were interesting. You could learn things from them. You could tell them something and they would understand it. They were even interested in understanding. Later I got to appreciate right brained people more. They were fun. They were amusing and could be very nice. Kind of like puppies or kittens. It would be a terrible world without kittens. But then again we don't let kittens vote in elections or make major policy decisions do we. They also let me learn about the hidden kitten in me. I was probably born to be ambidexterous. In kindergarden I was told to pick a hand when writing. I chose right because "it was most logical" and the dye was set. I am also a musician and I suspect much of my touchy feely right brain gets its say though my music. I believe many techs and programmers, perhaps way more than proportional, do play music. I wonder what that implies or if its been studied.

swizzlady
swizzlady

Hello Alan, I am so glad I read your article it shed some lights to my unusual behavior. I guess not exactly unusual-- everyone who are branded as the "analytical thinker" can relate with me. Some people always say that I am blunt and mean, I was like duh you're asking me a question. They told me that there is a certain way on how you say things. My problem is, I am incapable of doing that. I am also trying to try not to chuck too much information, but it's my addiction. I voraciously seek for information and absorb it as quickly as I can and then move on to the next. Anyway, I love this article and I have bookmarked it, the article is like talking to me, well this is me-- and I am glad I am not alone. By the way if there's a counseling for Information Addicts -- maybe like Information Addicts Anonymous let me know I might need it. Thanks for this awesome article I really enjoyed it!

jeasterlingtech
jeasterlingtech

Hello, my name is jon and i'm an analytical thinker. i use to think i had a problem why didn't everyone see things like i did. now i see I'm ok. two more things. analytical thinkers solve problems, even if the people who bring the problems really don't want them solved (we don't commiserate well) i also tend to answer the question asked not the question meant "do you know where the bathroom is?" "of course i do" and i go back to my work

Flyers70
Flyers70

Nice job of explaining the personality type. The problem is, some of these behaviors are borne of immaturity on some level. We need to evolve both personally and professionally and simply screaming "You don't understand me!" to the world just doesn't cut it.

mike
mike

or should I say 10?

marguerite.thomison
marguerite.thomison

Are there metrics to back up the 10 associations? Seems so stereotyped :(

nanci87
nanci87

This is easily addressed for readability with the gender neutral 'they', even for the singular. The same goes for the spoken word, unless you are referring to a particular person then you need to get their gender right!

oderayi
oderayi

Wow! This is wonderful. You just described me with 100 and 10 percent accuracy.

microbas
microbas

very accurate description, i know at least a dozen of techs that sound just like that

rhyous
rhyous

This described me to a tee...at least, until I made the decision to get a degree in English instead of computers. I did this because I worked with Computers and Networking and my hobby was developing on the side...so after analysis a CS degree would have been duplication of effort. I chose a degree that would help me in my weakest area....which was all that you describe above. Now, I have descent writing / communication skills...but while improved, I still match some of the list above, if just to a lesser extent.

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