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  • Writer's pictureTrisha Lord

Turning Issues into Questions

I want to share this marvelous little exercise that we do in the Thinking Environment, which is called turning issues into questions. It's one of my favorite things in the Thinking Environment actually, because it's so handy, it's so useful, and it can be used in a lot of different contexts, which I'll share about in a moment.

The purpose of this exercise is, like everything else we do in a Thinking Environment, to help you to think well for yourself, or - if you're thinking together with a group of people - to help the whole group of people think well for themselves.

So how it works is like this: you take an issue, any issue, any topic, whatever it is that you're wanting to think about, or whatever it is the purpose of the meeting is, or that the group of people are wanting to think about. So what is the issue? What is the topic?

Then the next thing that you think about is: by the time I come to the end of thinking about this, so it fits in the context of the meeting, by the time we get to the end of the meeting, what is the outcome that I or we want to have achieved from thinking about this?

A simple way of saying that is: where am I trying to get to with this? What do I want to accomplish from thinking about this? And in the context of a meeting, it's very important that you think about that question in terms of where you want to get to by the time the meeting is over, not where you want to get to within six months of the meeting. It's what do we want to achieve from the discussion, or what do I want to achieve from thinking about this? So that's the first question that you can consider once you've chosen your issue or your topic.

Once you've got the outcome that you want to achieve from thinking about it, the next question is: what question would I have to answer in order to get to that outcome? Or in the context of a meeting: what question would I have to get to, what question would we have to get to in the meeting, in order to be able to think about what we want to think about, in order to be able to get to the outcome that we want to achieve by the end of the meeting.

So I thought about an example that I could share in order to give you an idea of how this works. So the issue for the purpose of this example, is disappointment.

The issue is when I get to feel disappointed with how someone else has behaved, when my expectations are not met, when I feel let down, the outcome that I want to get to by thinking about this issue of disappointment is to be able to stay interested in what's happening when I'm experiencing being let down by someone, so that instead of disconnecting and getting upset in the situation, I'm able to stay present, I'm able to stay connected to the person or the situation when which I'm feeling disappointed. So that's the outcome I want to get to from thinking about this issue of disappointment.

So then I ask myself: what question would I need to answer for myself in order to be able to not disconnect, not withdraw, not go away feeling wounded and upset in situations of disappointment, but to be able to stay interested and see what might happen next?

There's many questions that I might want to think about and answer in order to get there. One that came to mind for me was: what might I not know is going on for this other person which, if I knew it, would help me to understand why they're behaving in the way they're behaving and why that behavior is causing me to feel let down? What might I not know which, if I knew it, would help me to deal better with this experience of disappointment? as an example of one question.

And as you can see, as soon as I've got the question, I can start thinking about that, and who knows where that thinking might take me.

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