Listening is not a component of the Thinking Environment

I believe that truly listening is one of the reasons why coaching works so well so it’s surprising that it isn’t one of the 10 Components of the Thinking Environment.
Instead there is ATTENTION.
And attention is the most important of the 10 components, it profoundly changes your conversations and is the element that makes all of the other components work so well.
Attention is listening with palpable respect, with interest in where the thinker will go next, and without interruption.
Without interruption.
When was the last time you were able to speak without interruption to see where your thoughts took you?
It is such an empowering and liberating experience to think unconstrained.
I have a thinking partner that I meet with roughly once a week and we divide our time equally, usually 35-40 minutes each. When It’s my turn I decide what I want to think about. When I run out of steam I ask for a question. In a thinking partnership the thinker will ask when they want another question so that there is no risk of their thinking being interrupted. Just because you aren’t speaking doesn’t mean you aren’t thinking.
My partner will ask me what more I think or feel or want to say. Their attention always on me, with a sense of ease and encouragement while my eyes are all over the place.
Often there is a silence while the connections in my brain are firing all at once. Every time I get stuck I ask for another question, my thinking partner confident that my brain that came with the problem also has the solution.
Try it for yourself in your next conversation, allow the other person to keep going until they run out of things to say and notice what happens in their thinking. Ask them what more they think before offering your perspective.
Or in your next meeting, give everyone 2 minutes, uninterrupted, to say what they think about an issue you’re facing in the team. Go round in a circle until everyone who wants to contribute has and then open up to the floor to discussion.
Or with a friend, decide that you are both going to give each other 5 minutes to talk uninterrupted and that you will hold the silence for each other if you run out of words, just in case another wave is forming, until the 5 minutes is up.
It is an incredibly freeing and inspiring thing to be able to think in the presence of another and to have them think in yours. It is the cornerstone of a coaching conversation.
My thinking for this letter has been influenced by Nancy Kline’s books Time to Think and More Time to Think. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. There is no additional cost to you and I only use affiliate links of products that I use myself.

The Ten Components of The Thinking Environment

Attention
Listening with palpable respect and genuine interest, and without interruption

Equality
Treating each other as thinking peers; giving equal turns and attention; keeping boundaries and agreements

Ease
Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

Encouragement
Giving courage to go to the cutting edge of ideas by moving beyond internal competition

Incisive Questions™
Removing untrue assumptions that limit our ability to think for ourselves well

Feelings
Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking

Appreciation
Offering genuine acknowledgement of a person’s qualities; practicing a ratio of 5:1 appreciation to challenge

Information
Supplying the facts; recognising social context; dismantling denial

Difference
Welcoming diverse group identities and diversity of thinking

Place
Creating a physical environment that says back to people, ‘You matter’

The Ten Components of The Thinking Environment are the copyright of Nancy Kline of Time to Think
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