The Dalai Lama famously said: ‘When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But when you listen you may learn something new’. It sounds easy, but listening properly is really difficult. It requires total focus on the person you are listening to and being completely open to all the signals that their message brings. That is the starting point of creating a thinking environment.
In our professional as well as our private lives, we have very little time to think. Part of us likes it that way, because just doing what we have always done is the easiest. It is easy to follow the corporate line, to do and say what other people expect of us. What is not so easy, but far more radical is to take time to think and time to listen to other people’s thoughts, pay respect to those and incorporate everyone’s opinion in what is going on. That leads to progress. Sometimes, the progress can be slow or hindrances mean that the conversation is going no where. This is the right time to ask an incisive question which is a question that removes all limiting assumptions, such as: what makes you think you can’t do that?
So next time you are in a meeting, around the dinner table or on the phone with a friend who has a problem, try this simple exercise: listen intently, ask an incisive question, allow them time to think (silence is ok), wait for the solution to come to them (if you offer a solution, they do not owe the solution, you do, and then it is less likely they will succeed). And watch what happens!
Nancy Kline’s book Time to Think is a straight forward, but very important guide to creating a thinking environment in your life. I recommend it highly. If you allowed yourself time to create a thinking environment, what positive impact might that have on your life?