I had a potentially difficult meeting the other day with someone who is extremely successful and who had very clear directions and opinions about Flying School.

I realised that I had a number of choices:

  1. I could disagree with everything she said, effectively ignoring her ideas so that I wouldn’t have to admit that she had a point, falsely holding on to my slim confidence that my ideas were best.
  2. I could agree with her and completely change up my own ideas in favour of hers, after all she has a track record, knows what she’s talking about when it comes to business in general, though perhaps not my business.
  3. I could stay open to new ideas and direction but continue to think for myself throughout.

On reflection option 3 seems the most sensible, however in the moment, how do we make that choice? Often our default is the need to be right, therefore we close ourselves off to other ideas because it might threaten our confidence, or our place in the world?

One way of learning to think for ourselves whilst being open to learning is to start exercising our thinking muscle from as young an age as possible. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our children no longer compared themselves to others but were open to learning from others whilst still thinking for themselves?

How do we help our children grow their thinking muscle and believe in their own ideas as well as being open to new learning?

We could consider:

  • listening longer to their ideas and stories before we jump in with our response
  • appreciating openly their ideas and specific qualities – over time this will grow their confidence
  • asking them for their advice, or ideas more on issues that we have assumed are for adults to resolve. When we show we value their thoughts they start to believe in them more too
  • think twice about our use of language – telling someone they are wrong is not entirely correct – it would be more accurate to say that their thoughts are very different to our own…perhaps find out where they are coming from before we shut them down?
  • being more comfortable with silence. It might be that you need to internalise what you’re really think before speaking, whilst for others they need to verbalise what they’re thinking before they arrive at what they really think…so give them space to explore out loud before judging their ideas and thoughts too early.

The best thing we can do to help someone think well in our presence is to give them our full attention and be open to the fact that we could be wrong.

I think that children are so much wiser than we often think and perhaps we need to give them more opportunities to realise their thoughts are valued. What do you think? 

If you are interested in learning more I would highly recommend books by Nancy Kline  which include: Time to Think, More Time to Think, and Living with Time to Think, the God Daughter Letters.