Thinking Partnership Training: Reflections on Days 1 and 2
I’ve recently completed the first two days of a three-day training course on Nancy Kline’s Thinking Partnership. Nancy Kline is the founder of the Time to Think movement and the author of two of my favourite books: Time to Think and More Time to Think.
Time to Think is based on the enormous power of effective listening and the impact it has on everything that we do; from building relationships to solving business problems and, in my case, providing a more empowering experience for my coaching clients.
There were so many key learning points in just these first two days. But here I’m going to summarise the ones that for me were the most significant, and I hope they’ll help you too.
The first point that springs to mind is the importance of creating thinking space for people, with no interruption. It’s fascinating to be able to think, knowing there will be no interruption. Think about that for a moment – you absolutely know there will be no interruption. No distractions. It seems so unbelievably rare in a world where everyone is talking all the time. Where there is noise, distraction, challenge, agreement, judgment, boredom, and disagreement everywhere you turn. Right now, I am on the quiet coach of a Virgin train. And I cannot think straight. In fact, I have stopped and started this blog 3 times in the last 5 minutes – all because someone in the carriage is talking loudly on their mobile phone, silenced only by the continuous announcements of station stops and onboard services. Even on a train, on my own, I barely have the time, space or respect to simply think.
When were you last given the gift of total space and time to think? Well, that’s exactly what you sign up for in a Thinking Partnership session, whether that’s one to one, or in a group.
The concept of giving something or someone your complete attention was also a key takeaway. Time to Think is not a model or a technique. Time to Think is a way of being in the world. I really love this summary from our guides; Sara and Kate. It reminds me of the concept of mindfulness – giving the full power of complete attention to just one thing at a time. Although, it turns out that doing so is really, really difficult. Because when we are consciously listening to our thinking partner, we are actually juggling our attention in 3 dimensions;
- What the person is thinking about (out loud)
- What we might be thinking that is potentially getting in the way of giving complete focus to that person’s thinking
- What our body language and posture might be ‘leaking’ (giving away that might distract the thinker from their amazing work of thinking!)
I was also struck by how intense the experience of listening fully to another human being is. By the end of day two, I was exhausted! And I didn’t feel as though I had done anything except sit and listen, perhaps asking one or two questions to encourage the thinker to keep on thinking.
Nancy Kline describes this prompting as ‘How far can the thinker think before I need to become involved? It turns out that that period of time might be many more minutes than we usually give people credit for. And herein lies the next learning point for me. Every one of us is the expert on ourselves. No matter how much we might like to seek out information, ask questions and access resources in the name of self-development, the fact remains that no one knows you as well as you know yourself, and no one knows me as well as I know myself.
As a coach I have always believed this to be true – but believing it and acting upon it are sometimes two different things and I know I fall short of this regularly. I often find myself drifting into advice-giving territory when I am coaching or training, whether my client has asked for advice or not. This is particularly tempting when they are struggling to find a solution, an idea, an option or a way forward.
My strength of kindness might mean I’m aching to interject, interrupt and comment with what I perceive to be a useful piece of learning or advice. But what would happen if I simply enabled my coaching client to think in a confidential, safe space, where the only limits are the time we have agreed to work together that day. How would it be if I allowed them to think through their own thinking, out loud, knowing they won’t be judged by me and that they are the expert in their own thinking?
This might be challenging for some of us as we grapple with the need and the positive intention to be the expert and the person who ‘helps people fix stuff’ – but it is also hugely liberating. I can respect you for the expert that you are and set aside my need to be right, superior or in some way more knowledgeable about the subject of your thinking than you are. What a massive relief!
My final piece of learning to share with you today is that we are all individuals needing different coaching styles. Not every coaching client will want or need a Thinking Partner when they sit down to a coaching session with me (or any other coach for that matter). As I worked through the course, practicing with and learning from everyone in the room, it became even clearer to me that a good coach bends and flexes to meet the needs of their clients. Some clients will love the opportunity to work with a Thinking Partner. Others will want their coach to draw on any number of alternative skills, tools and techniques to support them in that particular session.
I’m already looking forward to the third and final day of my course on December 3, and I’ll be sure to share more of what I learn with you then.