I Have a Thing for Quirky People

I have a thing for quirky people.

You know the ones I mean — the artist who is always late, those like magpies who are continually distracted by the next shiny thing, and the ones who are brilliant yet struggle within the confines of traditional education.

In large part I find them to be incredibly interesting people who stretch my thinking and my learning the most.

While I would describe most of my quirky friends and colleagues as creative, interesting, eccentric, and oddly appealing, there are others who may not share my opinion.

Others might describe these same people as being unreliable, scatterbrained, impractical, and yes even flaky.Those same people are also likely to instead value more of their own qualities including being able to focus more tightly on tasks and linear sequences.

Edward Hall in his 1959 publication called The Silent Language presented the premise that people are either polychrons like my quirky and free-spirited friends, or monochrons who are much more about deadlines, timelines, and schedules.

Monochronic people are also more likely to do one thing at a time, concentrate on the job at hand, adhere to plans and rules, emphasize promptness, and focus on short term relationships.
Polychronic people are different in that they are able to do many things at once, are committed to people and human relationships, change plans often and easily, and have a strong tendency to build life time relationships.

Why is knowing whether you are monochronic or polychronic important?

The cultures within which we live and work have a tendency to be either monochronic or polychronic. As such it will be much easier to understand each other as well as how one fits or doesn’t fit into one’s work or community culture.

Our western culture has been pretty much monochronic since the Industrial Revolution when tasks, linear sequences, and showing up on time became more important.  Even our educational system was designed with a monochronic emphasis in order to create reliable workers who were able to focus on the task and adhere to the rules.

Activities are structured and scheduled in a linear fashion, based on logic, order, punctuality, efficiency of implementation, and economic return.

As a result, polychronic people who prefer a more organic, fluid and less structured approach where relationships, alternatives, and opportunities are more of a priority will have more of a struggle fitting in.

While today the needs of our hyper-connected and fast-changing world are much more conducive to a polychronic culture and people, we too often seem to be trying to hold on to a monochronic way of thinking.

Anyone who is wired to be polychronic will tell you that simply creates more stress because society seems to think the quirkiness of a polychronic can be lectured and controlled out of existence.

Bottom line is that understanding the differences between polychronic and monochronic is crucial for understanding one another as well as what’s needed if we are to ensure we become communities of the future.

Note: If you’re not sure which tendency best describes you, this link will take you to a self test that will explain more.


Posted on 09-08-19

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