Stop focusing on problems and details and change how you think

This is a repost from a few years ago. But it's on a book I'm reading again, Quiet Leadership, so it's relevant. Plus it's good to remind myself about better ways to help other people think.

[source]I love it in comics or cartoons when a character has an idea and a lightbulb appears over her head for a moment. She's had an 'aha' moment. Invariably what happens next is that she has a burst of energy to put her idea into practice.

In the process of making new superhighways in their own minds, we all have 'aha' moments. These moments of figuring it out for ourselves give off energy and give us a desire to take action which is rarely shown if someone else tells us what to do. So it's much more sensible to help someone think through things for themselves.

How do we help people think? Focus on solutions.

Look at these questions: "Why did this happen?"; "Why isn't this working?"; Why do you think you're not good at this?" They all focus on the problem.

These questions focus on the solution: "What do you want to achieve here?"; "What do we need to do to make this work?" "How can you develop strengths in this area?"

Wallowing in the problem, or even the details, doesn't achieve solutions. It'sinteresting, but it's not useful.

But let's get practical. Imagine someone says to you: "I'm really worried about my son Joe because he's been skipping school but he just doesn't seem to listen to me."

You want to help her think through her problem. But here's what not to do.

Here's what to do. First, listen again to what she says.

"I'm really worried about my son Joe because he's been skipping school but he just doesn't seem to listen to me."

What's the problem? I've put it in bold below. Remember, we don't want to discuss this.

"I'm really worried about my son Joe because he's been skipping school buthe just doesn't seem to listen to me."

What are the details? Again, in bold below. We're staying out of the details, remember. They are interesting, but not useful.

"I'm really worried about my son Joe because he's been skipping school but he just doesn't seem to listen to me."

If we can't talk about the problem, or the details, what is left? Well, it's this: "I'm really worried..."

Listen for the thought process in a statement, and you have a key to helping people think. Then it's time to ask these sorts of questions:

How long have you been thinking about this?
How often do you think about this?
How important is this issue to you, on a scale of one to ten?
How clear are you about this?
What priority is this for you right now - top three, top five, top ten or top one?
What priority do you think it should be?
How committed to resolving it are you?
Can you see any gaps in your thinking?
What impact is thinking about this having on you?
How do you react when you think that thought?
How do you feel about the resources you've put into this so far?
Do you have a plan for shifting this issue?
How clear is your thinking about the plan?
What are you noticing about your thinking?
What insights are you having?
Are you clear about what to do next?
How can I best help you further?