Understanding how the five different thinking styles work can help you work better with others, communicate more effectively and achieve more.

In Coping with Difficult Bosses, Robert Brahmson identifies five thinking styles we use most frequently.

The five thinking styles are:

  • Synthesist Thinkers
  • Idealist Thinkers
  • Pragmatist Thinkers
  • Analyst Thinkers
  • Realist Thinkers

Synthesist Thinkers

Synthesists are very curious and creative. They tend not to think in logical, linear ways but often see connections between things. Synthesists delight in finding relationships in things, which, to others, have no apparent connection. They often veer off on tangents and love to ask ‘what if’ questions.

Synthesists are often seen as argumentative. However, they are actually looking at and analyzing a range of different views and ideas. To others, it can often seem that their patterns of thought are somewhat disjointed.

If you are a synthesist, it can help you to get along with others if you acknowledge the value of their ideas before discussing alternatives. This can help you appear more interested in others’ views and less argumentative.

If you work with a synthesist, understand that they are not being deliberately argumentative – they just can’t help looking at problems from all angles.

Idealist Thinkers

Idealists often have very high standards and big goals. Others might see them as perfectionists but they are trying to achieve the highest quality they can in everything they do. They also take a broad, holistic view of things and tend to be future-oriented.

Idealists also value cooperation and teamwork so they will work hard to bring a team together and help everyone achieve their best.

If you are an idealist, it is important to understand that everyone doesn’t have such high standards as you. You should try not to get upset when people fail to achieve your (sometimes unrealistic) expectations.

If you work for an idealist, this can be quite difficult. It can seem as if your best efforts are never good enough. However, working with an idealist can help you to strive to be the very best you can. It also means that your opinion will be listened to and valued.

You can also rely on idealists to be honest and to live up to high moral standards. This means you can trust them and always know they will be honest with you.

Pragmatist Thinkers

Pragmatists focus on action. They like to tackle problems logically one step at a time. They like to get things done and their approach is often flexible and adaptive.

Pragmatists are not as interested in why things happen or big pictures problems as their idealist colleagues. They prefer to make progress on one task at a time and look at things in from a more short-term perspective.

If you are a pragmatist, you will be good at getting things done. However, it can be helpful to occasionally view things from a wider viewpoint and take in the bigger picture. This can help you understand where your actions are leading and ensure you are headed in the right direction.

If you work with a pragmatist, try to keep to the subject at hand. If you wander off into big ideas and long-term plans your pragmatist colleague may become overwhelmed and give up altogether.

Analyst Thinkers

Analysts like to work with measurable facts in a methodical way. They love facts and data, measuring and categorizing. They pay attention to detail and are thorough and accurate.

Analysts prefer predictability and rationality and will look for a method, a formula, or procedure to solve a particular problem.

If you are an analyst thinker, you will do everything thoroughly and accurately. However, you may dismiss others whose attention to detail is not so good. This can be a shame because these people’s ideas are valuable even if their work is not quite as accurate as yours.

If you work with an analyst, then double check anything you show them for accuracy otherwise you risk losing their respect. In discussions with them try to be logical and always present a plan for new ideas as they can then grasp the concept better than if you just give them concepts.

Realist Thinkers

Realists make great problems solvers. They can think through problems quickly and act on the results to fix whatever is wrong.

However, realists easily become bored. They do not find themselves challenged by run-of-the-mill issues, preferring to get their teeth into bigger problems. At times, they may appear to be too results-oriented.

If you are a realist, it can be helpful to pause every now and then. The first solution is not always the best and sometimes you need to take in a bit more information before assessing the situation and coming up with a plan.

If your work with a realist, you need to learn to get to the point quickly. They want you to summarize the problem and not overload them with lots of details.

Putting the thinking styles to good use

For most people, one or two of these thinking styles dominate. However, fifteen percent of the population use all five thinking styles at some point.

Understanding your thinking style can help you broaden your horizons and be more receptive to the ideas of others. In addition, understanding how others think can help you tailor any information you have to share with them in such a way that they are most likely to take it on board.


  1. eric.ed.gov

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Thea Dunlap

    Wonderful article. I am crossed between a Synthesist-Idealist-Realist Thinkers. xD

    1. James charles

      Well thats kind of a bummer for me. I use all five styles very randomly and they also change very abrubtly, it might be a side effect of bipolar depression 🙁 but I guess the normal general jobs get done so thats a plus

      Good article though.


    Excellent article. I have experience with synthesists who always find a problem in a solution. A realist will never compromise. Composite personalities are very few.

  3. Joy Welch

    Well written article. Informative and enlightening/ I am an idealist mixed with a realist. As an idealist, I do set high standards for myself and I had to learn to not hold everyone to my standards but to accept people for who they are. Getting to that place didn’t happen overnight.

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