How to restore your thinking by releasing your feelings

One of the major reasons people don’t want to have difficult conversations is that they fear the other person’s reaction. They might get angry or worse still, cry. In Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment, feelings, allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking, are encouraged.
It’s not unusual for there to be tears at some point in someone’s coaching journey, especially when they are overcoming assumptions that have been holding them back for a long time.
In the early days of being a coach I used carry tissues with me just in case so I could whip them out as needed. I’d go and get them a glass of water and offer to stop the session to resume later. I did everything I could to make the person feel better. I was adding to the myth that crying means something is broken.
I’m not sure if I got it from Nancy or somewhere else but I learnt that crying is the brains way of clearing itself out.
It always reminds me of when I lived in Sao Paulo. The long hot summer days were punctuated at 4pm by a huge down pour of rain that would cool the city down. Everything always seemed so fresh and sparkly afterwards.
So now when a client cries I sit with them quietly, all of my attention on them and at ease until they are ready to speak.
We’re taught emotions don’t belong at work so inevitably the person will start to apologise and then I give them the information that crying serves a positive purpose and ask them what they need right now, pushing a tissue towards them. And just like after the rain on a hot summers day in Sao Paulo, the sadness clears and fresh thinking emerges.
It’s something I try to remember for myself as well. Sometimes you just need a good cry to clear out your stuck thinking, I recommend watching Pixar’s Up if you need encouragement.
Anger also jams up our thinking and we need to release it to kickstart thinking again. If someone starts venting with you my suggestion is to do the same as when somebody cries. As long as it is safe to do so, sit quietly, at ease, with all your attention on them. You may want to ask “and what more do you want to say?” when they run out of steam and keep saying it until they are finished.
When I need to release angry energy I often do a boxing class or go for a run. I know others write or listen to music that matches their mood. What ever you do remember your thinking will be better once you’ve released your anger first.
And there is fear. Something that doesn’t really get talked about much at work.
We all know the classic movie trope of the horrible boss that frightens people in the belief that gets the best out of them. We don’t think well when we are afraid and while frightening people into action gets results in the short term it leads to spectacular failures like Enron in the long term.
There are also our own fears, of failure, or not fitting in, or being found out or not being good enough.
The funny thing is that we often feel it’s just us that feels this way. That’s why I love the group coaching sessions I run, someone will voice a fear and someone else will share that they have the same fear. There is often a collective sigh of relief that it’s not just me.
If you’re afraid seek out someone you trust and share your fears, there is good chance they share them too.
When someone comes to you to tell you that they are afraid, sit with them, ask them to tell you more, ask them what they might be assuming and ask them if those assumptions are true. And then ask them what could be true instead.
The important thing is to let people express what they need to without interruption and trusting you will still be there after that release.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, drop me a line.
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(TM)
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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