I recently learned more about creating a thinking environment, based on Nancy Kline’s work. She has written several books including ‘Time to Think’, ‘More Time to Think’, and ‘The Promise that Changes Everything: I Won’t Interrupt You’. It is based on the premise that our best actions follow our best thinking. Kline talks about how we can often have our best intuitive thoughts and ideas some time after we’ve started thinking about something, specifically when we are uninterrupted. She says that interruptions are not only unhelpful because we haven’t completed our thinking, but they are also an ‘assault’ on the brain and our brain chemistry responds with a fight or flight response. In her research she found that on average we only have 20 seconds to think in the presence of another before being interrupted. Her life work has been dedicated to researching and teaching all the ingredients that are required to create the best thinking environment.
Another fundamental premise, and what I love about this, is the idea that we do our best thinking when we think as ourselves, for ourselves. I feel really passionate about creating spaces where firstly people can connect with their true selves, and secondly acknowledge that we are all creative, resourceful and whole. As a Coach I create spaces for individuals, as a Circle Leader I create spaces for groups of women and as a Leadership Coach and Consultant I help organisations and leaders create spaces for their employees and teams.
There is a key ingredient that all these need and have in common, which is psychological safety. This is a term used by Amy Edmondson to describe a belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes. We all have a human need for connection and research shows that from a very young age we will actually forgo our own truth or our own needs in order to maintain attachments. At times being accepted can feel like a matter of life and death, and it is certainly true when we are a baby. Why is this important? Because there are very few spaces where we might feel able to be ourselves, think for ourselves and to speak our truth.
For me there is an intersection between spaces that create psychologically safe environments that allow us to feel able to be ourselves, and in acknowledging the systemic influences that perhaps we have internalised such as the desire to conform. So creating space with the promise of safety and for the individual to choose to accept that invitation with vulnerability and courage.
Kline describes 10 components of a thinking environment:
1. Attention – the act of attention by another generates thinking
2. Equality – regarding each other as peers
3. Ease – discarding urgency, “ease creates, urgency destroys”
4. Appreciation – when we significantly increase positive appreciation thinking improves
5. Feelings – we cannot think if we have unresolved emotions, so let them out!
6. Encouragement – having courage to explore the edges of thinking without competition
7. Information – supplying information that contributes to thinking
8. Difference – valuing our differences
9. Incisive Questions – knowing that the mind thinks best in the presence of a question
10. Place – creating a space that says you matter
Having experienced a thinking environment for myself I can see how each of these components creates space for the inner work that not only is incredibly empowering because it is self directed, and also it is incredibly liberating because of how we all have a drive to reach our full potential.
So I invite you to reflect on, how often do you think independently? When was the last time you had time and space to think without interruption? How often do you allow yourself to be censored, or directed by others?
If you’d like to experience a thinking environment for yourself, pop me over an email and I’d be very happy to hold space for you to think as yourself, for yourself!