We finish each other’s…sandwiches?

My 9-year old son knows everything.  At least, he thinks he does.  Arguably he is an intelligent youngster.  But he has an annoying habit of finishing my sentences.

Example:  I would say “I think we can play some…” and he will finish with “Xbox?”  “No,” I would seethe.  “Chess.  I was going to say chess!”  Or I would say “Why don’t we…” and he would finish with “watch some tv?”  No.  I was going to say wash the dog.

It’s annoying.  And rude, really.  However, I don’t think he’s trying to be either.  He tells me that he’s trying to help.  He thinks I need help.  Ok.  There’s nothing quite so irritating as being patronised by a nine-year old.  And the unintended consequence is that do I feel disrespected and stupid.

Funny thing is that I used to do this to other people.  A lot.  I thought I was showing interest and helping them to get the words out.  Until I read Nancy Kline’s “Time to Think” and (more recently) “More Time to Think“.  It changed the way I listen to people.  And it stopped me interrupting.  Most of the time what I finished with is different from what they were going to say anyway.  And that stopped them thinking and made them feel stupid.

Kline says that the most precious gift we can give is our full, undivided attention.  No interruptions, no questions, absolutely no finishing of other people’s sentences.  That is because the quality of our attention is directly correlated with the quality of the other person’s thinking.  If we want our teams, our employees and our partners to think better, we must listen better.  And avoid the temptation to jump in and finish their thoughts.

She has identified 10 components to creating a “thinking environment” where we can harness the power of everyone’s brain.  So often we employ bright people and then tell them what to do rather than having them think for themselves.  I have created a poster of the 10 components for you to use.  Please feel free to use it when you’re facilitating, leading discussions or training.  I believe it can change the world.

And now I’m off to…do some real work, you say?  No.  Cake.  I was going to say I’m off to eat some cake.