Thinking differently — photo by Teddy Petrosky

A Little Known Concept That Will Transform The Way You Think Forever

I never used to understand why it was such a struggle to speak to some people but really easy to speak others.

Then a few years ago, I learnt about something called parallel thinking and it completely changed the way I communicate with people. My hope is that it will help you with your relationships both at home and at work.

It all has to do with different categories of thinking. The idea is you need to be in sync with the person you are speaking to and you do this by switching between different categories of thinking together.

Why you need parallel thinking

  • It enables you to work more constructively with others because the focus is on the thinking process rather than on trying to prove each other right or wrong.
  • It gives you a fuller understanding of a situation because it causes you to experience multiple perspectives, not just your own.
  • It saves you time and energy — IBM, found they were able to reduce the average length of a meeting by 75%.

Parallel thinking

There are six categories of thinking which relate to parallel thinking:

  • Strategic 🎯
  • Creative💡
  • Critical 🔍
  • Positive 👏
  • Emotional 🤬
  • Fact based 📊

Every single category is important and it’s not only possible but necessary to switch between them.

You shouldn’t use more than one category of thinking at any one time and you should always move between categories together.

Effortless conversation

When I met Bablu, the conversation flowed really easily, it felt enjoyable and productive. We both shared a willingness to adapt to the situation and switch between different categories of thinking together.

First, we used creative thinking, then we moved on to positive thinking, and so on.

Fixed thinking

Fixed thinking is an alternative to parallel thinking and it happens when we get stuck in the habit of using just one category of thinking. It explains why some conversations become more adversarial.

Stressful conversation

Talking to my friend Francis used to be very difficult. I would often think creatively, while Francis was thinking critically and we never made an effort to adapt to each other, which caused friction between us.

Now I know why this happened — we only saw the situation from a fixed perspective.

You stick to just one perspective, your own one.

Three key points

I’d like you to remember these three things from reading this blog:

  1. Concentrate on understanding the other person’s perspective, rather than focussing all your energy on trying to make them understand yours.
  2. Make sure you adapt your category of thinking to the context you are in and the person you are speaking to.
  3. Try to get multiple perspectives of the situation, one after the other.

Next time…

I’ve explained what parallel thinking is and why it’s important. But I haven’t really said how you do it. The best way to learn how to use parallel thinking is a methodology developed by Edward de Bono called the Six Thinking Hats. My next blog will go into detail about this approach.

Source: The information and inspiration for the blog was this video by Edward de Bono on the Six Thinking Hats. It’s over an hour long and very old school but well worth watching.

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