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The Best Use of Brain Time

“Most people listen without hearing.”   —   Leonardo daVinci

Did you know that your brain can think at between 4 and 10 times the speed of speech?  That means when you are listening you have spare time to use ‘brain time’ for looking for meaning between the lines. How does a process consultant make the best use of this brain time?  How should I make the best use of brain time?

I think I should begin by using this brain time to develop my listening skills – to fasten on the big ears and really listen.  What does this mean?  The paradigm of ‘process’ consulting is evolving for me, and I’ve had to link to other concepts or ideas to be able to thoroughly understand the process.  For example, in the last post I explored the difference between a consultant and coach.  I believe process consulting really first the definition of coaching more than consulting. 

Last week in class Alan made the comment, “the less I talked the productive it was.”  What other concepts or ideas could give me better insight into how effective inquiry – which relies on effective listening — provides for a productive conversation?  My search this week included active listening skills, social intelligence, and the attributes of a good therapist. 

I came across an interesting presentation on The Art of Listening  based on social intelligence.  The presentation points out (as Block concurs) that listening includes:

  • Being aware of body language – what is felt as much as what is said
  • Focusing – magnify the sound of the person’s voice so others fade to the back
  • Eye contact – fundamental to communicate interest
  • Creating pictures and links (mind maps) of what is being said
  • Keeping an open mind – avoid getting distracted by negative or emotional words; judging content, not delivery style and avoiding being critical
  • Collecting the big ideas – determining the emerging themes

 Is perfecting this art  how you make the best use of ‘brain time’?

I continued by exploring the concept of social intelligence, which I equate to one’s ability to make this art of listening tacit.  Dr. Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships defines SI as “being smart about relationships. . . being empathetic, sensing what the other person is feeling, understanding their point of view, and ease and facility in having smooth, effective interactions. It’s both knowing what the person is feeling and acting effectively based on that.”   He says almost all of this is tacit.

Do we, then, build our Social Intelligence by developing our inquiry and listening skills?

 Finally, I thought about what kind of person would be an expert in active inquiry and high on the Social Intelligence scale?  This would be the type of person an effective process consultant would most likely emulate.  I came across a blog by Dr. John Grohol on Psych Central that had an interesting perspective on the qualities of a good therapist.  Dr. Grohol says, “A therapist is more than a plumber for your mind, you can’t just pick one at random from the yellow pages.”  I think Block and Shein would say the same about a process consultant.  Grohol says a good therapist:

  • Complements the needs and personality of the client – meaning they are positive and empathic
  • Has a relationship that is professional, courteous, and respectful – including explaining how they work in a clear and direct manner
  • Recognizes their own strengths and limitations – and looks for good fit with client
  • Is genuine (Block and Shein call this authentic)

Interestingly, good LISTENING skills are never mentioned by Grohol in the attributes of a good therapist, although it may be assumed in the other attributes. 

How do we identify a good process consultant?  The paradigm of effective process consulting for me now includes:  a socially intelligent coach, artful listener, and therapist.

Block says, “the hard time we have is not really with the action itself, but with valuing the importance of these actions.” (p. 57)  I’m beginning to value more deeply the importance of fastening on the big ears, and am looking forward to practicing using that ‘brain time’ to build my own social intelligence quotient.

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3 Responses to “The Best Use of Brain Time”

  1. The parallel between good therapists and good process consultants is interesting. If process consulting in some ways organizational therapy, then the parallel fits. One suggested addition to Grohol’s list: a focus on the client (patient) learning. Learning to manage similar crises or challenges in the future. Learning to client’s role or responsibility in the situation or problem. Again, these probably apply to both professions — interesting parallel!

    • Good thoughts – I might think the process consultant is more inclined to help the client work through the applied learning – but I wonder….

  2. Joanne, it’s interesting how Social Intelliegence can creep its way into so many topics! You raise some interesting points about increasing SI and being a better process consultant. I think Goleman would argue that increased SI/EI makes you a better everything from friend to CEO. I think this also links into your other posts about coaching (the past two) and this points to me that you may be learning better how to coach yourself. Bravo! Incraesing your brain time is no easy effort, nor is active listening, especially when we pair this with correcting old habits and breaking patterns. I’m going to try take this post as a challenge and try to do the same. I think its a really worthy challenge for anyone in the consulting world. At the very least, we may be open to seeing how we have previously worked in these relationships and glean some more information about our own styles and choices. After all, we are supposed to be critically reflective practioners, are we not?


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