Thinking & Vulnerability

Do you feel vulnerable when you think?

You are in a meeting. Your supervisor asks you a question. It’s a thought provoking question and you have to intentionally organize, prioritize and synthesize your thoughts before you can respond to your supervisor.

Are you thinking about how you respond to the supervisor’s question? Or, are you thinking about your supervisor’s perception of you when you provide the answer? Or, do you prefer to end up saying “I don’t know”.

I am confident that these moments exist in your daily. It may not just apply with your supervisors, but may also apply for others with whom you want to maintain a lasting and positive impression. For those who can hold the space for you, they tend to be more comfortable in sharing their thoughts and perspectives. And for less comfortable situations, you may end up smiling and may revert with a less irrelevant response.

I have intentionally engaged in critical thinking for more than 10-years. In those years, I am learning to be sensitive with my questions, and hopefully, allowing to me to create a space for others, that may seem less safe. A couple of effective techniques that I use in being confidently vulnerable in posing questions to others.

1) Seek permission to ask questions.

In the SCARF model, autonomy plays a significant role in aiding others to minimize being in a threat state. One effective method that I have found to help me maintain vulnerability in my own thinking is to provide context, and seek permission from the other before asking my question. It allows the other person, to prepare, anticipate the question and frame an appropriate answer.

You may formulate a question and say something like the following;

“Michael, you have raised a valid point and I would like to pose a question, that is aligned to your point. Is that ok with you?”

In this statement, the intent is to provide the context (my perspective), create inherent logic for the other and seek permission to ask the question. The above statement gives you confidence and potentially credibility with the other person to ask a question and to anticipate a logical explanation.

2) Visualize and share your thoughts clearly

How many times have you launched into a question, without visualizing your thoughts for yourself? Why is this important you may ask? Metacognition is a process about thinking about your thinking before posing the question. When the inherent logic is crystal clear to you, you can visualize and shape the question clearly and present it to the other person. 

Sometimes, you may have underlying assumptions, that drives you to a question, without much thought, and relevance?

You may formulate a question and say something like the following;

“Michael, you have raised a valid point. The reason why I find this point valid is because in recent data from Finance department, I noticed that similar trends for the past 6-months. I am confident there is a correlation between the point that you have raised and the alarming trends that we are seeing. Can we have a closer look at the data and take action?”

In this statement, there is an intent to visualize the links and to synthesize 2 data points together. It question is more credible as it helps Michael to link his point to the trends that are being observed.

3) Clarify the purpose for questions. 

Do you ask questions for the sake of asking questions or do you ask questions because it is relevant to the context? Actually, the response is dependent on the situation and the context. In some context, you may choose ask a question to validate your perspective. In other situations, you may ask a question to understand how others think.

When you clarify the purpose of the question, it facilitates and supports the needs and the reason for an answer.

You may formulate a question and say something like the following;

“Michael, what is the possibility that the point you have raised is directly connected to issues that we have been facing at corporate level? Let me explain the purpose of the question. In recent weeks, corporate has been encountering numerous issues. I have strong feeling that that it is directly linked to what you have explained”

In this statement, there is a clear intent to link what Michael is saying and what corporate is facing.  It helps to frame the purpose and reinforce the need to look at what is happening in bother areas.

Vulnerability in thinking may result in shaming, blaming and being judged for sharing your thoughts. In order to give you more confidence in how you think and communicate, try the above techniques and remember to share when they work for  you in your context.