Are you Western, Chinese or Indian?

How do we make decisions?  How do we reason and navigate our way through life?

In his book Center Church, Pastor Timothy Keller describes three basic ways that humans reason: conceptual, concrete relational and intuitional.  

  • “Western”: Conceptual – People make decisions and arrive at convictions through analysis and logic. This involves syllogistic reasoning in which premises are established and then necessary conclusions are drawn.
  • “Eastern”: Concrete relational – People make decisions and arrive at convictions through relationships and practice. These are people likely to believe what their community believes. They also are concerned with practical living. They will believe a principle only if they see “how it works.”
  • “Indian”: Intuitional – People make decisions and arrive at convictions through insight and experience. Intuitional people find stories and narratives more convincing.

In essence, people are convinced of this or that, or motivated to respond to a situation based on the appeal to their logic, results or intuition.

If I could Myers-Briggs these types, I would say the Western/conceptual view is more logical or thinking (“T”).  The Eastern/concrete relational is more results-driven and fact-based (“S”).  Indian/Intuitional seems more based in the world of the experience and intuition (“N”).

I think from my childhood, I have always been far more intuitional.  Whether through music or movies, narratives have always made an enormous impression on me.  My need to express that impression has found its way out in creative writing or songwriting.  Education, experience and time has made me embrace a more logical, conceptual view as an adult. My more efficient friends have made me understand and appreciate the value of results-based reasoning, even if I will never entirely operate from that mindset.

Keller also says that if we desire to persuade or convince someone to change his or her mind about something, that often it is helpful to appeal to their individual preference.  If it’s conceptual, show them logic.  If it’s concrete relational, show them results.  If it’s intuitional, show them the story and narrative.

Keller does preface all of this by saying this:  “Ultimately, the most important source for learning will be the hours and hours spent in close relationships with people, listening to them carefully.”  

No matter what style we may individually prefer, relationships will always be the most important factor in dialogue and decision-making.

Which one are you?

Resource: Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (pp. 122-123). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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