Time to think…? Take 5

BAME woman working in library

How taking 5 minutes to think out loud might transform a problem into a solution simply by someone listening…attentively

“Time to think…?” is of course a title borrowed from Nancy’s Kline’s brilliant exposition on the power of thinking and her notion of a Thinking Environment. Only I’ve added a question mark as, for some of us at least, the current climate may be hindering our capacity to think as clearly as we’d like.

At the time of writing – week 8 of lockdown – if you’re like me, I’m trying to make sense of something that makes no sense. Creating a Thinking Environment, to be able to stop and think just for 5 minutes, might just help.

Have you been able to stop and think recently? I mean press the pause button to really think – to work through a problem and come up with an answer to something that seems way too difficult right now – no matter how small? And then for you to feel good afterwards knowing you can, and will, do something about it?

If you’d like to have that time to think, then try this short exercise …if only for a matter of minutes. Importantly, you’ll need someone to share the process with – either face-to-face or remotely.

So, with your Thinking Partner

  1. Choose ONE thing that’s bothering you; perhaps a difficult situation at work, a family member needing support or simply finding time for yourself. Anything you’re able to think out loud about, with the intention of finding an answer using the just 3 questions (see italics)
  2. For 5 minutes in a quiet space you, the THINKER, be ready to talk about the issue you have chosen. Your someone, the LISTENER, asks the first question ‘what do you want to think about?’ and then as you begin to talk they listen with their undivided attention and without interrupting (except to ask the next question).
  3. When you’ve said everything you need to say about this, your LISTENER asks, what do you want to achieve at this point?’ When you’ve stated your goal then answer the third question, ‘if you knew that you could do ‘x’ what would you do differently?

Here may be the key to finding the answers that you need. If appropriate and there is time, this can be reciprocal, and you simply change roles. In so doing you have created a Thinking Partnership and the time given to this exercise can be extended – providing that it’s equal between you both. End on a positive by telling your Thinking Partner something good about them or what they said. They would do the same about you.

Afterwards, on reflection, what did it feel like to be listened to – unconditionally, attentively and without distractions?

Done effectively it’s a powerful coaching technique that can be applied in all spheres of our lives – with individual work colleagues and teams, even friends and family. The crucial element is the attention given to you by your Thinking Partner. Listening unconditionally with respect for your intelligence and capability is a key to “freeing the mind”. A thinking partner’s presence enables you to find those solutions yourself which is both powerful and potentially transformative. Give it a go, it might save you time in the long run!

For more information on Nancy Kline and her work see: https://www.timetothink.com/