Wiley Wednesday: How To See the Forest If You’re a Tree Person

As a right-brained and big-picture thinker, it surprises me when I throw a whole bunch of ideas at someone and I see their eyes widen in panic and they blurt, “You don’t want to do all that right NOW, do you?” I’m not a naturally cruel person, and causing this kind of stress in my friends, colleagues, and fellow writers is saddening. Which brings me to my topic for today’s Wiley Wednesday.

If you are a tree person, and like things in digestible chunks without a lot of extra fluff out of nowhere, then read on. I shall attempt to demystify the forest way of thinking in order to bring harmony between the two camps.

The first thing to remember when dealing with a forest person, if you are a tree person, is that brainstorming is fun. Forest people like to sit above the tops of the trees, sometimes so far above them that we don’t even know what kind of tree – we might not even know if they’re evergreen or not! This is fun for us. This is agony for you. We don’t know this, and so we go on, gleefully describing how that forest over there looks from a distance, and this one there, and did you know there’s a whole ocean on the other side?

The key to brainstorming is to remember, there are no bad ideas, and that the word “No” stops the process in its tracks. This is painful to a forest person. If the tree person can simply say to themselves, here they go again, and let the forest person natter on about their ideas and be enthusiastic, this will lead to harmony. The forest person will usually take their own notes, but it is absolute heaven to us when a tree person decides to jot down our ideas. We think, “You get it!” Reality is, according to the tree people I know, that it’s out of self defense when the tree person is asked, “Weren’t you listening last month when I had the idea for the child seat company??” If you just bucket these ideas for a rainy day, much in the way of a collection of coins, it will go a long way to diffusing the tension.

The second thing to remember when dealing with a forest person is that sometimes one needs to clarify, is one speaking as a forest person, or is the forest person working with the details of the here-and-now? My husband, for example, is a tree person. I need to remind him, “I’m talking about the forest here,” so that he knows to disconnect from the idea that I’m suggesting we do all these things right now. This type of communication is necessary when dealing between the two camps, because the tree people I know assume that the forest person is speaking about details and the here-and-now OR they assume that the forest person expects the tree person to sort out all the details right now. Neither is usually the case.

The third and final thing to remember is that forest people like to throw out a lot of ideas and see what sticks. For example, when I was proposing some ideas for my writing group, I tossed out a blog, another blog, a print newsletter, a steering committee… Initially, I gathered other forest people to see what excited them. Then, when presenting it to the group’s founder, I went more slowly in a step-wise fashion. It paid off in the long run, since Debbie Cairo, a tree person, and I have now started a not-for-profit writing group and have held our first annual conference. Debbie said to me the other day that she’s figured out that I like to throw out a lot of ideas, and I’ve said to her that I don’t expect her to DO everything I suggest – I’m just seeing what interest there is for possible future directions. Plus, it’s a way for me to find interest among our membership in our ideas, and maybe a member will step forward and run with the ball – as Nancy Bockoven has done with our ShopNotes blog. (Which, if you haven’t checked it out recently, please do so – she’s done an amazing job on it.)

If you are a forest person, and you’re reading this, please remember that when dealing with a tree person, they’re not being purposely stubborn and resistant to your ideas. They simply are hearing them as something you want them to do, RIGHT NOW. That sense of urgency, to a forest person, is enthusiasm. To a tree person, it can feel like pressure. If we can learn to spell out where we’re coming from, we’ll get much more cooperation from both sides and avoid having to cut down the whole forest, so there aren’t any more pesky trees.

After all, it takes a lot of trees to make a forest, right?

Happy Wednesday!

6 Replies to “Wiley Wednesday: How To See the Forest If You’re a Tree Person”

  1. Brilliant! And I laughed, too, because I actually have seen someone reply almost word for word to you on a forum thread, “You don’t want to do all that right NOW, do you?” I think I'm generally a tree person, though I currently feel like a log. 🙂 I'm glad it's a four day work week! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and enthusiasm.

  2. Just what I needed, and well done. I often lean toward being a leaf on the tree person. Sometimes the veins on the leaves. It certainly helps to remember the bigger picture, especially when my primary client is a forest person.


  3. Thank you, Darla, Harris, and Dilo! I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and appreciate your positive support.

    Dilo, have you ever read the novella "Leaf by Niggle," by J. R. R. Tolkein? You might enjoy it very much. It's a manifesto for leaf people. 🙂

  4. As a forest person, I just learned some very useful things about tree people. Now if only I could figure out which one my husband is…
    On a serious note, that managed to be both very amusing and very helpful. Now if I can figure out how to communicate with my boss (I think she's a continent person if I'm a forest person…) I'd be set.

  5. Thanks, Reka! We are all somewhere on a continuum as regards forests and trees and such. Some people are big-picture people, visionaries. Some are in the middle, like the forest, but can deal with trees. Other, like Tolkien's Niggle, like the leaves ON the trees. It takes all kinds for the world to go 'round, I think. 😛

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