Improving Relationships with MindSonar

As I’m writing this on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d take a look at how MindSonar might be useful in the work I do with clients experiencing minor, but constant, conflict in their relationship with their partner. You know the sort of thing – arguments that seem to flare up  from nowhere, over nothing.  I’ve worked with clients who tell me that they and their partner have no major differences in values, political views, religious beliefs, etc. and yet seem to end up bickering daily about minor things. These arguments, although seemingly unimportant, can gradually start to impact upon the relationship, making one or both partners unhappy.  In turn, this can lead to bigger arguments and so set up a destructive cycle.

This sort of conflict is very often due to the meta programmes being used by the individuals.   Common problems that I see are:

  • One or both partners running a Mismatching meta programme in everyday life. Constantly seeing what is wrong gets in the way of appreciating the things that are right. In a relationship this can lead to a perception that the partner is a negative thinker, down on everything – even a nag. That said, there are times when running a Matching programme can also lead to problems, particularly when a couple is planning a major change in lifestyle, with the risk of the “matcher” being seen as not being realistic about problems and obstacles that might need to be considered in order to succeed.
  • One partner is Internally Referenced and the other is Externally Referenced. In this situation, the internally referenced partner might be frustrated that, when they are thinking aloud about things that need to be done, the externally referenced partner immediately does it – taking the partner’s words as an instruction, not just a thought.  I have certainly experienced this, and the frustration that it can cause if not understood simply as a difference in thinking patterns.
  • One partner has a strong Options meta programme, and the other is highly Procedural.  This difference often causes unexpected  arguments when the couple are planning something about which each is excited – a holiday or a celebration for example.  They begin by feeling great as they start to arrange it, but end up bickering as the two meta programmes cause frustrations as they begin to plan.

In fact, large differences in any of the meta programmes can lead to feelings of being misunderstood or not listened – the basis of many disagreements.

By jointly experiencing a MindSonar assessment and coaching session, the couple can gain an understanding of the underlining differences in their thinking styles and the way that this is impacting upon them.  As MindSonar stresses the usefulness and equality  of each meta programme, the couples can learn to appreciate their differences, rather than to judge them.

Such a session could provide the couple with the following benefits:

  • Each partner can get an insight both into the meta programmes in play in their chosen context.
  • Each can become aware of occasions when they have run the other meta programmes, thus recognising them as flexible ways of thinking, rather than as inherent ways of being.
  • The couples can also “try out” the other’s meta programmes with their given context in mind to gain their perspective on the situation.

Overall, MindSonar can enable couples to appreciate each other’s thinking style and also identify how they could use such differences to complement, rather than conflict with, each other.

Couples work is just one example of the flexibility of MindSonar in working on conflict resolution, and highlights its usefulness in personal as well as business coaching.  I’ll certainly be recommending it to my clients.

Unintended consequences – are certain thinking styles responsible?

Here in the UK, In October 2015, the government introduced a policy making all large stores charge 5p for single use carrier bags. The driving force behind this policy was the large number of single use plastic bags that were in the environment, not just littering, but posing a real danger to wildlife due to entangling creatures and being mistaken as a food source by aquatic birds and mammals. The aim of the policy was to significantly reduce the number of single use bags and, as a consequence, total plastic manufactured and handed out to shoppers as they switched to long-lasting bags instead (so-called bags for life)

In 2017, a review was done of the previous 12 months to see if the policy had worked. On the surface it looked as if it had – single use bag usage was down by a fifth. However, a deeper analysis of the use of plastic bags in general was less reassuring. In fact, it would seem that a lot of people use bags for life just as they did the single use bags. What’s more, the majority of bags for life sold were also plastic of a much heavier type, so in fact, as one supermarket managing director admitted, despite an overall reduction in the number of bags sold, the amount of plastic used overall had increased!

It is also the case that single use bags are fully recyclable (not all bags for life are) and all major supermarkets would accept them back to send to be recycled. The real problem was that many people didn’t recycle them and so the bags were discarded into the environment through landfill and litter. Many people didn’t know that supermarkets accepted them back for recycling. Also, the additional cost of bags for life and their general lack of quality meant that they weren’t valued as significantly different from single use bags. Therefore the real problem seems to be more about public awareness and behaviour than about single use bags themselves.

Not such a success then. An unintended consequence.

When I read about this, I couldn’t help but wonder what thinking styles might have been behind the policy. Were there particular metaprogrammes that led to the unfortunate outcome? My initial thoughts are that perhaps the policy was developed by people with a high Detail metaprogramme. This could lead to a focus on the initial reported problem of single use bags in the environment and so decide that the question to be answered was “How do we reduce the number of single use bags handed out?”. In contrast, people with a high Concept metaprogramme might have instead asked “Why are there so many plastic bags in the environment? The first question focuses firmly on the very specific problem observed, whereas the seconds seeks to see the bigger picture. Perhaps there’s also an involvement of Procedure and Options too – with an Options thinking style being more aware of the existence of alternative, and not necessarily favourable, outcomes.

Another metaprogramme that might be involved is the direction of motivation. The focus might have been so much on getting Away from the problem of single use bags, that little work was done on what the possible consequences could be. In contrast, a focus on moving Towards reducing the amount of plastic used in shopping bags overall and increasing recycling of those that were used might have avoided the situation we are now in.

I know from experience that it is not uncommon for policies to produce unintended consequences. Perhaps an understanding of thinking styles would be helpful to policy making groups and committees to avoid these. It would also enable such groups to consider the behaviours behind such problems too.

There are probably other metaprogrammes at play too – what do you think the thinking styles behind this unfortunate outcome were? Are there ones that I’ve missed, or ways in which the ones I’ve thought of might work differently? As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

New year resolutions – could understanding thinking styles make them more successful?

Every January the gyms become busier, the supermarkets’ salad section gets depleted and so-called slimming products fly off the shelves. Magazines (online and off) are filled with advice about goal-setting and making change. Yet, every year, everything’s back to normal by February with very little to show for early January’s enthusiasm. Most New Year resolutions are abandoned before January is even finished. Maybe next year…

So, are New Year’s resolutions worth making, or not? With such a high failure rate, is there really a point to them? I think it all depends on a person’s perspective and the way that they view the goal they are setting themselves. Understanding which meta programmes could be contributing to a person’s failure to achieve their resolutions could enable the switch in thinking patterns needed to bring about success. Here are some examples I’ve come across:

Procedure and Specific metaprogrammes
One problem with New Year’s resolutions is that for some people they are often just that — something for the new year. With this perspective, the resolutions are approached as if they have to be started on 1st January and executed perfectly until successfully achieved. As soon as the person falters, they view that as a failure, decide they can’t do it and give up.

My initial take on this is that perhaps these people are running strong Procedure and Specific metaprogrammes, possibly with a strong Blue (Order) Graves Drive. In such cases the problems lie with the belief that to achieve a goal you need to go from start to finish in a straight line, in a certain way with no hiccoughs, pauses or detours. Anything else is seen as disheartening and a personal failure. This means that those with such a perspective are bound to fail as the vast majority of things worth achieving take time, effort and involve learning about what works and what doesn’t along the way.

Strengthening the Options and General metaprogrammes might enable this person to see the broader picture and find more ways than one to achieve their goals.

Change and Present metaprogrammes
Another thing that some to abandon their resolutions is that some people become disheartened when they perceive that their progress is slow and gradual. Perhaps this is due to a strong desire for noticeable results to happen quickly – a high Change metaprogramme, especially if coupled with a Present perspective.

In this case, strengthening Development and Future metaprogrammes may enable the acceptance of gradual progress to future success.

External Locus of Control
Thirdly, many abandon their resolutions because they feel that events around them get in the way. Often this is due to a high External Locus of Control and the resulting discounting of their own ability to take control of their behaviours and decisions.

For these clients strengthening Internal Locus of Control can enable them to make the decisions and changes they need to in order to achieve their goals, whatever is going on around them.

These are just a few of the ways that understanding thinking styles can enable us to achieve our (and our clients’) new year goals. Other metaprogrammes can also be at play in this situation of course, and the analysis provided by a MindSonar profile in this context can help us determine these.
Do let me know your thoughts and experiences on this – I’d be interested in what thinking styles you find are a help or a hindrance with your new year resolutions.