Creativity, thinking and listening

Creativity is Innate

We have only to observe children playing to notice that creativity is widespread. They are always exploring their environment, using imagination, creating situations and trying things out. It is very hard, often impossible, to predict what young children will do. They invent brand new responses. This is creativity.

Even where 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 it seems likely that people are intrinsically both creative and intelligent, we do not observe ourselves and other people behaving that way every day and in every situation.

Something must go wrong to limit our functioning. We do not function very well when we are hurting. When we are feeling bad, we often pay attention to the bad feelings. This prevents us thinking clearly about what is going on and what response we should give. If we focus on our bad feelings then the decision we make will not be the best one. Something will go wrong 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, are carrying their hurts. They will 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 in which the hurt took place.

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 go on for quite a while if the person does not interfere and will lead to full recovery. Accepting the release of painful emotion 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 a hurt through e.g. crying with the hurt itself. ‘If you are crying, you must be hurting, what can I do to stop you crying? ‘

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

Problem solving

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 it 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, giving them ideas or even solutions may not work very 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 complex process and is more difficult when emotion is involved. Strong positive and negative emotion 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 decide to stop paying attention to our own thoughts and feelings. We have to pay attention to the other person’s thoughts and feelings ‘as though our lives depended on it’.

When listening we use our ears and our mind, imagination and empathy. We try to understand what the experience of being the other is like, 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, clothes, facial expression, gestures). This helps us get into the other person’s skin.

Then help him or her think more clearly by giving attention and asking questions to extend the thinking. Encourage the expression of blocking feelings. Ask the person for her/his best thinking about the problem or what she or he 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.

It is so useful just to talk to an interested listener 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