Setting aside time to think is useless unless you know how to think. As our Solutions Society takes over more and more of our decisions it may be timely to remind potential and aspiring thinkers about how it is done. If this seems a bit like reinventing the wheel let me say that many clients come to us asking for help with thinking. They have got used to pressing a button and seeing the answer – an admirable state of affairs if it always works. It doesn’t.
There are four sorts of thinking in the sense in which I am using the word. First on the list is Quick Thinking. Remember how often you have thought of the Oscar Wilde response hours after the conversation? Remind yourself of the times when someone at the meeting has said exactly what you were thinking – but they got there first. It is irritating and sometimes downright disadvantageous when we don’t think quickly. Can you learn to do so? Absolutely.
The method is simple to explain, not so simple to practice. Start spitting out answers quickly. In the early stages of doing this choose groups of friends because you will make some gaffes. That is the learning process, don’t let it embarrass you. Keep up the pace, that’s what matters. Very soon you will start to think more quickly. Our programme for Quick Thinking is called “Sum it up; spit it out; make it stick”. When you can do that you are a Quick Thinker.
Next up is Command Thinking. Imagine you are on the bridge of a big ship, navigating in dangerous waters. Your orders must be authoritative or you will hazard the ship. Command Thinking is not necessarily quick, nor slow. It is timed to the commands to be given. Do you have a friend or relative who has a bad memory or is possibly losing their memory through old age? Try giving them helpful directions about when to take medicine and you will quickly see what I mean. Your suggestions – which are really orders – must be presented at the right time and in the right order. They must be crystal clear. So must Command Thinking.
We need to be able to cope with Ponder Thinking, too. Sometimes we are faced with a difficult problem involving many complexities. Smart answers are not right for this type of situation. We need to go away from the issues and sort out in our mind what is the best of the many options available. Pondering requires a level of focus we don’t reach easily or often. The way to practice Pondering if you are not used to doing it is to think of your domestic situation and relationships. All too often these are neglected in our thinking ritual. A good ponder about them will yield results you didn’t expect. Try pondering about everything.
Finally we need to study Care Thinking. This is deliberately focusing exclusively on other people. If we approach it as Care Thinking we will soon realise that getting others to do what we want is best achieved by caring for them. That means we must know how to care and what to care about. It means assessing their needs and weighing up how we can meet them.
Quick, Command, Ponder, Care. There’s no mnemonic in that. Just a lot of thought.