Developing Empathy Through Parallel Thought

Developing Empathy Through Parallel Thought

To be able to truly modify a behavior there is a chair that sits at the center of The 5 Chairs: The Wait Chair. Here is where we observe, take a breath and collect ourselves before reacting. This is indeed a place that is the lynchpin to our journey. Here is where we decide to move towards the old comfortable Attack Chair or make our way with empathy to the Connect Chair.

The Wait Chair is fundamentally a silent chair. It’s where vigilant observation and deep listening comes forth opening the doors to radical curiosity. It is the space between the world that triggers us and our chosen response to that world. It’s where we manage our mind and guide ourselves to the right action.

The Wait Chair Skills and Parallel Thought

To master the Wait Chair, we need to explore our ability to:
a) Choose our attitude
b) Cultivate presence
c) Develop inner stability
d) Choreograph our thoughts

How can we do this parallelly? First, we need to understand a little about the idea of parallel thought and how we have been trained to use adversarial argument to get our ideas across in order to establish a presence in the world and, traditionally, in business organizations. The latter method has been useful in the past, but it does not reflect the creativity, empathy, and problem-solving skills that are needed in today’s dynamic multicultural environments.,

What is Parallel Thinking?

Parallel Thinking® was developed by Edward de Bono, as “an alternative thinking method to our traditional adversarial system of thinking, in that it is concerned with ‘what can be’ rather than what ‘is.’” Instead of placing ideas, thoughts and situations in definable boxes or judging, we are asked to “design forward from a field of parallel possibilities.” De Bono uses tools to facilitate this line of thinking removing the participants from an emotional reactionary stance by having them wear hats that represent different positions to problems, creating workable solutions that are:
Non-judgmental
Non-adversarial

Argumentation Simply Put

Argumentative thinking comes to us from Greek philosophy, more precisely the school of Aristotle. This is where logic rules, thereby eliciting critical thinking and inevitably, the ‘truth,’ if your logical argument proves superior. Simply put, it has a premise and conclusion with rules and is used as a tool of law in civil society. Where is the love?

Choreographing Our Thoughts Through Parallel Empathy

Imagine you have been confronted aggressively in a meeting by a colleague. This person has just dismissed your idea outright without giving a reason why and has tried to change the topic leaving you stunned and waving in the wind. What do you do? Pull out your Wait Chair from the line of five chairs and set it in front of the other four. You are now facing your possibilities head-on and are ready to engage in implementing parallel empathy. Take each chair and have an inner dialogue with it to build your way towards the Detect and Connect Chairs where you can engage the situation in a way that is non-judgmental and non-adversarial allowing you to reassert your position with emotional intelligence.

There is a deep understanding in ‘waiting’ or ‘pausing’ before reacting which is essential to transitioning from the negative to the positive and from the unconscious to the conscious.

In this chair, we experience the fundamental uncertainty and edginess of life and learn to sit with it without behaving in ways that are harmful to ourselves or to others. It’s our opportunity to really contemplate the possibilities and outcomes of our behaviors and eliminate the ones that longer serve us.

We come face to face with our old repetitive patterns, our old trigger behaviors and we have the chance to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving.

The realization that we have a choice in life is profoundly liberating. Having a deep understanding that we are responsible for our own well-being and that we can always choose what attitude to have towards life at any moment, is a turning point. It creates a deep flow of energy in the knowledge that we can always choose with intention and never have to default to being a victim. This choice is immensely empowering.

When faced with a situation, difficult or otherwise, we have options which we can consciously choose. We can intentionally act through parallel empathetic thought to deal with a situation and change it to a positive experience for all.

The Wait Chair is our pivotal point. It represents the choice we are faced with daily as leaders, colleagues, spouses, partners, parents, and friends. We can succumb to our old dysfunctional ways or choose new more positive behaviors. The choice is ours, every moment of every day. Let’s all rise to that and make our world a better place to live in.

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