Creativity, thinking and listening

Creativity, thinking and listening

Creativity is Innate

We have only to observe children playing to notice that creativity is widespread. They always explore their environment, use their imagination, create situations and try things out. Predicting what young children will do is very hard, often impossible. They invent brand-new responses. This is creativity.

Even when children have parents who are very punishing or restricting, they are creative. They will persist even in the face of severe discouragement. Young children behave this way from birth, so we can assume that creativity is innate. We are creative. Creativity is an innate part of being human.

Intelligence is Innate

Intelligence is a messy idea. One meaning is the ability to observe what is happening in a situation, decide what needs to happen and do the appropriate thing. In this sense, intelligence is something that we are born with. It is innate.

Degradation of innate abilities

Although people are intrinsically creative and intelligent, we do not observe ourselves and others behaving that way in every situation.

Something must go wrong to limit our functioning. We do not function very well when we are hurting. We often pay attention to the bad feelings when we are feeling bad. This prevents us from thinking clearly about what is happening and what response we should give. If we focus on our bad feelings, our decision will not be the best one. Something will go wrong, and we will feel worse. Eventually, a rigid pattern of behaviour builds up, held in place by painful emotion. We continue to behave in ways that don’t work for us.

Painful emotion reduces our ability to think creatively and intelligently when we are hurt. Conscious or unconscious memories of previous times when we were hurt can also make it difficult to think.

Recovering our creative intelligence

The hurts above are inevitable, while the people around us and society and its institutions carry their hurts. They pass some hurts on to others unawarely. However, infants have remarkably effective natural mechanisms for recovering from their hurts. We can recover these mechanisms and break the vicious cycle. When we recover from our hurts, we also recover our ability to think clearly and creatively in the situation where the hurt occurred.

If young people are hurt, they run to a friendly person who appears likely to be interested. The child will then fully express the feelings by crying, storming (a ‘tantrum’), sweating, shaking, laughing and talking. This process may continue for quite a while if the person does not interfere and will lead to full recovery. Accepting the release of painful emotions is exhausting for the person involved. Thus many people will shut down this healing process by distraction, ‘Have a sweet’ or punishment. They may equate the healing of hurt through, e.g. crying with the hurt itself. ‘If you are crying, you must be hurting. What can I do to stop you from crying? ‘

The natural process above is completely effective with every class and every culture. It is a universal human process.


We have unlimited intelligence and creativity available to each of us. It is mainly under a crust of unresolved hurts that were all done to us. We did not deserve any one of them.

The above neatly explains why it is easy to solve others’ problems and how difficult it is to solve our own. We can see other people’s rigid behaviour for what it is, products of painful emotion and not reality. It is much more difficult to see our own. If we really want to help people with their issues, then telling them to see it differently and giving them ideas or solutions may not work well. What will work is listening, encouragement to express their feelings and practical help if required.

Listening at work

Listening enhances every interaction between people at work.

It is a complex process and is more difficult when emotion is involved. Strong positive and negative emotions in the listener can cause problems, especially when the feelings arise in response to what the other is saying or doing. To listen, we must stop paying attention to our thoughts and feelings. We must pay attention to the other person’s thoughts and feelings ‘as though our lives depended on it’.

When listening, we use our ears, mind, imagination, and empathy. We try to understand the experience of being the other and what it feels like to be her/him. We notice the words, how the person says them (pauses, pace, voice tone) and what the person looks like (posture, facial expression, gestures). This helps us get into the other person’s skin.

Then help them think more clearly by giving attention and asking questions to extend their thinking. Encourage the expression of blocking feelings. Ask the person for their best thinking about the problem or what they will do next. This is usually much more effective than doing things for the person, which creates dependency, or making decisions about the person, which creates distrust.

Talking to an interested listener is so useful that caring, attentive listening is often enough to release intelligent thinking and a creative solution.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick