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Learn to Listen, Think + Connect to Others – Planned Thinking Sessions Help People Think

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in nlp, originally published in issue 285 - March 2023


Our thinking depends on the quality of attention that we give to each other.  Creating planned thinking sessions can help people think for themselves, and think well together.  Thinking sessions improve communications, remove blocks to clear thinking, help us communicate without ambiguity and connect more fully with others.

“The Quality of attention we give to another person can be Catalytic because It determines the quality of other people’s thinking…. The most important thing is what happens for other people when we allow them to think for themselves”.  Nancy Kline




Human beings need to talk out loud, take turns and listen to each other respectfully and unhurriedly so we can formulate and think our ideas through.  When people are trained to think for themselves, and then to think well in groups, they can take their thinking further, faster, banish blocks, and gather new insights to produce precisely needed ideas quickly and with precision.

Before Covid I taught Listening Groups in college classrooms, teaching first how to listen incisively with curiosity and fascination.  The quality of any group’s thinking is improved when we teach people how to be at their best in groups and allow them to think for themselves.  New ideas evolve quickly from thinking groups and thinking pairs and it allows people to move quicker, overcome blocks and produce new ideas in record time.

Participants are also encouraged to have ‘thinking buddies’ to think through sticking points.  Once a pair become proficient, they can meet-up in a break time and problem solve proficiently, taking turns to speak is often all that’s needed to shift a block and move an idea forward.  We need to engage in verbal communication with others without interruption or disruption. People need to hear their words out loud to discover what they think, and when their thinking is finely honed, they can deliver new solutions, swiftly and with confidence.

Becoming Aware Of Our Listening And Thinking Behaviour Patterns

So why do we find it so difficult to let other people Speak?

We Think We Listen, But Often We Don’t

  • We assume we are too busy and don’t have time to talk;
  • We interrupt and finish each other’s sentences;
  • We moan together, a favourite conversational talking stance, which takes up time and can ensure that we don’t reach a useful conclusion;
  • We correct each other to shut down conversations;
  • We fill in the pauses with our own story.

What prevents us from giving attention to other people and listening to them with respect and interest?  Groups tend to reward the quick thinkers, whose ideas may not necessarily be the best just the fastest.   When we finish other people’s sentences for them, we are assuming:

  • That the person can’t finish a sentence for themselves;
  • That your words are better than theirs;
  • That what they are saying isn’t worth listening to;
  • That what you are doing won’t hurt them!

Listen Respectfully to Enable Others to Think More Clearly in Our Presence

Thinking sessions help you to evaluate how you listen to friends and colleagues, be more attentive at meetings and with clients.  Allowing someone to verbally think their idea through can help you to reserve your advice.  It can help you ask incisive questions that encourage people to think again and clarify their thoughts.  Sessions can help people find limiting assumptions and beliefs that may prevent them from achieving their aim. The important thing is what happens for that person because you have allowed them to think for themselves.  In groups people become more confident knowing they will get their turn to speak and that their ideas will be listened to

Identifying Types of Listening

  • Random thinking;
  • Process thinking;
  • Flow mode.

Flow mode is the best style to be in when you are listening to others.  You are relaxed and trust that the information you want will come. 

We pick up on the way others listen, or don’t listen, to us and we make assumptions about ourselves and develop, or don’t develop feelings of self-worth. We may have the best ideas in the world, but if we don’t feel our words will be listened to, we may not speak at all.

Limiting Assumptions are Blocks to Thinking

The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.  In order to move on when people seem blocked we use a deceptively simple but powerful framework.  We ask ourselves: ‘is what this person is saying:

  • A fact?
  • A possible fact?
  • Or a Limiting Assumption?

Blocks to thinking are almost always limiting assumptions by the thinker.  Assumptions that seem like the truth.  Limiting assumptions make it impossible for the thinker’s ideas to flow further.  Knowing that everyone will get a turn to speak increases the intelligence of the group. Once people know that they won’t be interrupted it frees them to think faster and say less.

How Well Do You Listen to Other People?

  1. listening and understanding. Are you engaged in what is going on?
  2. Are you thinking about what has been said?
  3. Are you thinking about the applications of what has been said?
    Gradually our Attention Drops - Below the Level of Listening
  4. Not Listening. I agree / I don’t agree with you;
  5. May interrupt to get our point across or make comparison;
  6. Here’s my story Forget about you, distraction – let’s talk about me!
  7. Nodding Politely But not listening.

There is only one thing virtually everything else in our life depends on – that is our ability to think.

Further Information

If you would like to learn and practice some ‘Listening, Thinking and Connecting to Others’ techniques on zoom, 2 hour weekly sessions, 6.00 – 8.00pm GMT. please contact.  and get the book: Time to Think by Nancy Kline.



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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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