I had an eye-opening experience recently. It was a small but powerful moment during an enjoyable interaction that had a profound impact on my understanding of self-reflection.
While discussing with a friend some training that I had recently been on, I began self-reflecting verbally about what I had learnt and, more importantly, what I’d learnt about myself. By asking some excellent questions my friend had done a great job helping me to untangle a mess of thoughts. I was on the cusp of some really interesting realisations about myself in relation to how I think and how I could develop my thinking to improve my effectiveness when the moment happened.
My friend interrupted me.
All through the discussion my friend had been pondering too, and in that moment he also had the need to share his thoughts. In all honesty I don’t begrudge him the need. I know the feeling when you can’t hold in an important realisation. Unfortunately, it came at exactly the wrong time for me. His words interrupted my line of thought and I lost the trail of the idea that I was chasing. It was gone.
The interesting and enjoyable conversation continued, so I have no qualms about that. However, my light bulb moment was lost. Despite our continuing conversation I wasn’t able to track it down.
The Moral of the Story
There is a positive to all of this. The act of being interrupted while self-reflecting provided me with a different lesson: the importance of staying silent when other people are pondering.
I can’t go back and change my friend’s behaviour in that interactoin. I can’t in all good conscious provide constructive feedback to my friend to help our future interactions (because who am I to say that my light bulb moments are more important than his). But I can change something else.
I can change how I behave when other people are deep in thought. I can give them the gift of my attention and my silence. I can give them the mental space to ponder in their own time. I can enable their self-reflection.
Think about it. If your questions and your silence are key in helping another person come to a powerful realisation, how grateful will they be? They will hold you in esteem as the instigator of their positive step forwards. Your rapport with them will increase by an order of magnitude. They will associate you with their gain.
By enabling their win, you win yourself!
The Simple Step
When others are in deep thought, self-reflecting on an issue or problem, give them the space to ponder. If they want your input, it will be clear. When in doubt, stay quiet and let them have their moment to think.