Filtering Our Thinking in Crucial Conversations

Left-Hand & Right-Hand Thinking

So I'm teaching this class about crucial conversations, and this amazing thing happened. First, let me tell you what Left-hand and Right-hand thinking is all about. Left-hand thinking are the thoughts we have during a conversation--but DON'T SAY OUT LOUD. Right-hand thinking are the ones WE DO SAY OUT LOUD.

During a crucial conversation we need to be aware of our Left-hand thoughts and decide whether to speak them out loud or not. It's an important advanced skill. We notice what is going on and we use the information with care in the conversation.

Don't Share Left-hand Thinking If...

There are times to say what we are thinking and there are times to keep our thoughts to ourselves. We don't share if it will:

  • Harm or damage the other person or a third party in some way
  • Create a negative outcome
  • Harm or damage the relationship

Here's How To Share Left-Hand Thinking

If we decide to share our Left-hand thoughts we can begin with

I’d like to share something that I have been thinking

and then talk about your reactions.

There is Nothing Good or Bad, but Thinking Makes it So

The amazing thing that happened was during an activity about Left-hand and Right-hand thinking. I asked the participants to think back to a crucial conversation they'd recently had. They were to record the following:

  • What the other person said
  • What they themselves said
  • What they were actually thinking

When they'd finished, one of the participants had this look of amazement on her face. She said,

I never realized this before. My husband asked me to get him a drink, and I was thinking, "why don't you get it yourself, can't you see I'm busy?" But I didn't say anything, I just got the drink. But all this resentment was building up inside. I was brought up to avoid conflict, but now I see it's not doing me any good.

Summary on Left-hand Thinking

In the debrief on the activity, we identified actions she might now take. Because, while it is good to handle some conflict situations by not saying anything--if resentment is building up--it may be the time to have a crucial conversation and begin by saying.

May I share my thought with you?