One of my favorite terms is one I learned from my friend Susan Bradley at The Sudden Money Institute. It’s the term thinking partner. A thinking partner is someone who helps you think through problems. It’s not someone who gives you the answers.
A thinking partner allows you to be the expert.
I think this is a big deal. Too often those we’re speaking with want to jump in and give us advice. They don’t start with questions. They don’t start with a deep understanding of why a particular issue is important for us. They don’t even know if what we want to do makes any sense.
Believe me when I say this. You’re the expert at your life. If you’re not, then who knows more about you than you? Sometimes it just takes someone who helps you think to take ownership of being your own expert.
A thinking partner asks good questions.
It’s impossible to be an expert at your life when people are telling you what to do. Instead, make sure your thinking partner does more asking than telling, much more. I know that when people start giving me advice before I’m ready to hear it, I lose respect for any advice that’s given.
The key with being a good thinking partner is to show respect for the person you’re talking with. I think the best way to do this is to show genuine curiosity in why the person wants to go in a direction they’re talking about.
A thinking partner asks the question what would happen if?
This might be my favorite question in the world. It forces to me to think about alternatives. That’s one of the main reasons I love thinking partners. If they do their job well they’re going to help you think about alternatives you have.
I know when I play the role of a thinking partner what we start off doing is rarely the thing we end up doing. By asking what would happen if we always explore other alternatives. It’s funny how often those other alternatives are the ones we should be doing.
You won’t be lectured to.
The problem with working with an expert is they have the feeling that they need to show you how smart they are. When this happens I often feel like I’m being lectured.
I don’t want to be lectured. I want the experts I work with to ask good questions and then use their expertise in helping me come up with a more elegant outcome. I’m hoping that’s what you want also.
Having a thinking partner just feels good.
When you have a good thinking partner it’s just going to feel better. Having someone who respects you and believes you can come up with your own answers works better than someone who always thinks they know better.
The problem when we give advice is we give advice from our worldview. It’s your worldview that counts. You’re going to feel better about your conversation when the person you’re talking with asks lots of questions and then helps you think about solutions. Isn’t that something you want? Then why not find your own thinking partners? You’ll be glad you did.