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The Art Of Creating Problems That Weren’t Even There: What To Do If You Have An Overthinker In Your Team

December 10, 2021, 4-min. read
What To Do If You Have An Overthinker In Your Team

Yes, some people have the tendency to think about things. And that’s great news for all of us. Then there are those who constantly think up further and further solutions, return to them in their minds over and over. They compare options, think about what happened or is supposed to happen, deduce the reasons why others behaved the way they did, and try to figure out how they could have influenced a situation and what they should have done differently. Also, they tend to dedicate considerable time to thinking about marginal matters. Sometimes, they get so enclosed in their own thoughts that they lose contact with the real world and enter a state of complete paralysis.

It’s good, of course, to think through your decisions or actions beforehand and act with consideration. But it can become a problem when there’s too much thinking; it can cause various difficulties.

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How can you tell that someone is an overthinker?

  • Thinking about a problem makes them feel upset and less certain instead of helping them achieve a state of calm and certainty,
  • They are often their own biggest obstacle in moving forward and their own biggest critic; they typically come up with many reasons why they won’t succeed or why not to do something,
  • They have a tendency to anticipate and assume; in their thoughts, they often become removed from reality or create their own new reality,
  • Thinking does not help them come up with new ideas or perspectives; it just leads to repeating the same cycle and sinking deeper into the problem,
  • They take the tiniest details into account and evaluate additional information which are no longer important and which do not help them achieve better understanding or decision,
  • Thinking makes them so busy and exhausted that they don’t have time for rest or relaxation and are de facto always under pressure,
  • They are unable to simply relax and enjoy the moment,
  • They put off the decision for so long that the damage caused by staying passive is at least the same or bigger than if they made the wrong decision.

How to work with them

If you are a manager and you have this type of person in your team, it can cause some difficulties. So, what can you do? How can you lead and manage them? Get inspired by the following tips:

  • Talk to them
    Minimize their space for suppositions, assumptions, or unproductive thoughts. The more you discuss matters with them, the smaller their need to think about them. And what’s more, you will be able to direct their thoughts.

  • Separate the essential from the non-essential
    Help them gain perspective on things and pull away from less important matters so that they can focus on the essentials. Give their thinking the right direction and subject.

  • Name their role and authority
    Specify areas and topics where they have actual influence. Focus their thinking on matters that lie within the scope of their competencies and which they can affect. On the other hand, take the time together to identify things outside their zone of influence – those that they have to simply accept.
  • Reframe their thinking
    Strive to support them in positive thinking and orientation on future. Instead of thinking about what they did wrong or what they shouldn’t have done, turn their attention to what they can or will do.

  • Demand action
    Require clear intermediate steps. Instead of letting them think in terms of complex, complicated plans, steer them towards completion of easy objectives that can be ideally carried out immediately. By using small, simple steps they can take right now, lead them to bigger changes.
What To Do If You Have An Overthinker In Your Team

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  • Debrief
    Evaluate steps they’ve taken. Together, focus on what specifically went well. Build joy and good feelings connected to being active. Reaffirm useful habits by providing positive feedback and strengthen their self-confidence.

  • Allow for mistakes
    Call mistakes useful for the purpose of learning. Teach them to accept mistakes and to not be afraid of them, but also to know how to use them for their personal development. Show them that everyone makes mistakes and that it’s good to work with them.

  • Give them time to think
    Don’t try to limit their thinking but instead lead them. Set a clear time for them to think about a particular topic and state what specifically the output should be.

  • Offer help
    Let them know your door is open and they can come to you for advice. To this type of people, a coaching managerial style is very useful; help them find new perspectives and solutions and steer their thoughts in a constructive direction. At the same time, teach them to have their own system so that over time, they can start using the same thought process on their own, without your active help. For example, you can use the GROW model (G – Goal setting, R – Reality, O – Options, W – Will) as an inspiration.

Have you ever come across an overthinker? And which technique worked best for you?

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