from the


from the Top of the Mind


from the
Top of the Mind

“Dr. Crawford’s presentation was the highlight of the conference and a much needed reminder for all of us (especially nurses) to keep it all balanced. Bill’s psychology background surely protruded through his messages and I know it was well-received by all!”

Nancy Perovic, RN, BSN
University Of Chicago Hospitals, Chicago, IL

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“When feelings run deep and positions are entrenched, then just listening often isn’t enough to move the conversation forward.”
~ Bill Crawford

When Simply Listening Isn’t Enough

As a psychologist and seminar leader, I’m often asked by clients and participants how to deal with someone who is stubbornly resisting any discussion about solutions. Unfortunately, these concerns are often directed toward the person who is being resistant and how to change them. While understandable, this perspective of needing to convince someone that they are the problem is rarely successful. In fact, what often happens is that the two parties become even more resistant to what the other is saying until something explodes, or someone just gives up.

In my desire to help people become more influential in their lives and the lives of others, I have helped them understand this problem in terms of how the brain processes information, and how both parties can get stuck in their lower, reactive brains where listening and understanding are virtually impossible.

This is why, if we are the ones wanting to create solution-focused conversations, being receptive is so important, and many methods of conflict resolution and effective conversations have championed “listening” as a critical component of success.
Unfortunately, just “listening” doesn’t solve the problem, because while better than arguing or trying to convince the other person that they are wrong, it doesn’t always lead to mutual understanding. This is why, in Part III of my, “Life from the Top of the Mind” system, I have created a six-step process for dealing with resistant individuals, and recently I have run across a concept called “Appreciative Inquiry,” that goes nicely with my system.

Appreciative Inquiry was pioneered in the 1980’s by David Cooperrider, and is described as “a process for facilitating positive change in organizations, groups, and communities. Its assumption is simple: “Every human system (and I believe every human being) has something that works right…things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful. Appreciative Inquiry begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways that heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change.”

This is right in line with step 2 and 3 of my 6-step model where I suggest people ensure that they are not just looking at what is wrong with an individual or their position but who they are at their best. This is because our middle brain (or limbic system) has a tendency to pay more attention to the negative because it thinks it is keeping us safe (as it did in the past). Unfortunately, this results in our only seeing their negative traits and painting their entire being with this negative brush. The other person senses this and feels dismissed or criticized, which results in increased resistance.

To ensure we are not driving people deeper into their resistant brain, we need to hold a vision of who they are at their best… what do they do well? What do they love to do?
Then we need to listen to find out what is important to them, because the only way they will hear our proposed solution (which happens in step five of the model) is when we are blending what is important to us with what is important to them and framing our suggestions for change in terms of the future and the solution, not the problem and the past.
This where the concept of Appreciative Inquiry can be helpful. If we are willing to listen for their best (as well as, what is important to them) and let them know we get it, then this puts us in the best position to ask a solution-focused question when it comes to pivoting the conversation toward the future.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done, and tends to run counter to how we have experienced difficult conversations in the past. In other words, when we were growing up, most of us experienced “listening” as the less powerful perspective. When our parents and teachers were upset with us, we were supposed to listen and not try to explain our position.

Unfortunately, this has our middle brain interpreting “listening” as passive and less than desirable. In order to move beyond this “parent child” dynamic and truly learn what is important to the person we are wanting to influence, we must know what is important to them and connect with the part of their brain that thinks about solutions (which is the upper 80% of their brain that I call “The Top of the Mind).

This is what I teach. I have the pleasure of going around the world teaching people how to interact with resistant people in a way that goes beyond just listening. If you feel this would be valuable for you and/or your organization, I suggest you contact me, because when feelings run deep and positions are entrenched, then just listening won’t be enough to create the sort of solutions that work for everyone.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill

Dr. Crawford's Info Packet

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