Spirit of EQ Podcast – Applying Consequential Thinking
Eric: Hello everybody this is Eric Pennington and this is the Spirit Of EQ Podcast. Today’s podcast is about applying consequential thinking. Applying consequential thinking. What’s consequential thinking?
Jeff: Consequential thinking is the ability, the skill, to actually think through a process. “If I do this, this is going to happen.” “If I don’t do this, that’s going to happen.” And like all the other competencies, they all have a verb at the beginning. So, in this case, we’re learning how to apply consequential thinking towards big decisions, or little decisions, through our life.
Eric: Is this going to help me not make those dumb-headed decisions when you react to things? We’ve talked about reacting versus responding. Is this kind of what it’s designed for?
Jeff: Yes. It allows you to take the facts of a situation and then factor in the emotions of the situation. “How am I feeling about this?” “What is the outcome that I want to have?” And then use that to make the decisions and then have an idea of what you think the outcome could be. “What’s going to happen?” “Is it going to get to the outcome that I want to have?”
Eric: I know a lot of our listeners might be wondering how do they know if they are a good candidate for this? Am I someone that typically loses my temper and reacts all the time? Or is it just for anybody?
Jeff: It’s great for any person to think about. A lot of people are already doing that naturally, and they may not know it. And once they recognize the fact that they are doing it, they will be able to strengthen it. And a lot of people haven’t recognized it. They let the unchecked or misunderstood emotion drive their decisions and sometimes that might not be a good outcome. Most times you’re not going to get the outcome that you really want.
Eric: So one thing I was going to ask you about, and I know you have some background in this outside of the Spirit Of EQ. You guys work inside of the prison system as an example?
Jeff: Well, we haven’t really worked that much in doing actual EQ work in prison, but I’ve been involved in the prison ministry for over 25 years now and it’s very interesting. I didn’t really catch what they were doing until the last time I was on one of the weekends. We have a series of talks that we give to the residents. That’s what we call the inmates. Male or female, depending what prison they’re in. And the first talk we give is called “choices.” And in this “choices” talk we teach the residents the difference between reacting to a situation and responding. And that’s what we’re talking about. If you respond to a situation, you’ve probably applied your consequential thinking. And if you really think it through to the outcome, this the outcome I want. On the other end, if you react, you don’t think about that outcome. And in the case of most people in prison, they reacted to a situation instead of responded, as far as what got them into prison, or what’s driving their life in the prison. How well they follow rules, how they get along with corrections officers, with other prisoners. And we start teaching them that. Learn how to respond. It was funny. The last time I heard that talk given, I go, “Oh EQ.” You know I think I’ve even given the talk in the past. And when you talk one-on-one with the residents, you’ll find out they can relate to that. If they would have responded to this situation, they probably wouldn’t be here. That’s an extreme case, but it works in all our lives.
Eric: That’s interesting because I think from a parenting perspective I heard this before, and I’m sure I probably thought it as well. Your kid at a certain age really knows how to push your buttons and those kinds of things. And typically you hear it as “I just don’t know what to do because they know how to push my buttons.” Again, is that something someone, a parent, could use?.
Jeff: Yes. It can be used in a situation like that. One, we go back to the competency we talked about before, where we recognize a pattern, which could be a pattern ourselves or it could be a pattern, in this case, in your child. Because they’ve recognized your pattern…it gets complicated…they’ve recognized your pattern. So the kid goes “I know if I do this it’s going to tilt mom like a pinball machine, and she’s just going to whatever, and then I get my way.” Well, they actually applied consequential thinking then because they know if they push that button they’re going to get the result they want. Now that’s probably not using it for good that way. But then the parent, in the same aspect, they recognize the pattern. They know their child is going to do this when the situation comes up. If they’ve applied some consequential thinking to it they’ll know they might have a little bit of a tantrum for a few minutes, but that’s going to go away, and I’ll get the outcome I want for whatever the situation is. Whether it’s getting work done, correcting a bad behavior, or curbing a dangerous behavior or something like that.
Eric: So in some ways too, that modeling might even help the child, right? If they’re observing all the other things, they’re observing that maybe that parent is using consequential thinking, right? As far as how to process.
Jeff: And then they’ll hopefully pick up on the fact that, OK this whole process is not worth it, because the consequences are, they’re going to have to do whatever they’re asking me to do. So they eventually will give up unless they’re really stubborn like my children. They don’t give up.
Eric: I’m in your tribe. So the factors of analyzing and reflecting. Is that something related to thoughts and feelings.
Jeff: Yes. When you analyze it, you think it through, and then you reflect on what happened. This is “going over it after it’s happened” thing. You can do it before, but a lot of times you’ll decide “OK, this is what I did, this is what happened. So I’m going to decide this is the result.” That’s the analyzing. The facts of the situation come out the way you want. And then you reflect on how it could have come out differently. What you could have done differently. And that’s not necessarily emotions like we normally describe them. But you’re using all those feelings because you know the outcome is going to be an emotional outcome. Are you going to be pleased with it, happy with it, or are you going to be upset with it? So it’s still emotions but just in a little bit different way. You’re using the thoughts and feelings to do it.
Eric: So combining facts with the human dynamic, maybe unwrap that a little bit. And then maybe talk a little bit about making a strategic plan.
Jeff: When you go into a situation, like buying a car. So there are the facts of the situation. I’ve done my research and this is the type of car I need. I’ve got a family, young kids so I probably need a van. So you go, OK, I’ve decided that I need a van. I decide that we’re taking lots of long trips so I’ll probably want a van with all the fancy DVD players and game systems and stuff like that. I’ve looked at the reliability ratings and the Town And Country has the best reliability ratings. How much do I have to spend? How much does it cost? And then there are even some emotional feelings about what color do I like? What color is the interior? You know that kind of thing. So those are all the facts that you have. And then you go into the human dynamics. Is this decision going to sit well with my wife? Is she going to agree with all of that? In my wife’s case, if we were buying a van like that, she would need all the facts and figures. I know that because we’ve been together a long time, so the human dynamic dealing with her is, she’s going to want to see all those facts and figures and she’ll probably ask me to show my work. “When you said Town and Country, why didn’t you look at the Honda?” This is the situation. So you have the human dynamics. If she were the one making the decision, she understands me, and I don’t care about all the facts and figures. So she’s using human dynamics to buy the vehicle or we would have to get together to do that. And it’s the same way with any situation. There’s always some facts and figures and then there’s the human part of it. The emotions, the “getting along” kind of thing.
Eric: So maybe that is a good segue to thinking about making a strategic plan. Maybe talk a little bit about that.
Jeff: The strategic plan. If you’re really looking at something long term, you sit down and you just start that process. You get the facts and figures, you get all that information. You sit with it. Are these things that I’m looking at what I really want? In this case with the car, the outcome of getting a car that fits my needs fits my budget. When you go from being single to married, you have cool cars. Then when you hit the minivan stage, is that going to sit well with me. And I think anybody that has a family, it used to be a station wagon, now it’s minivan. “Can I handle the emotional drama?”.
Eric: My smile just gets so much wider, Jeff, because my wife and I have gone through that stage. When we first were married, it was exactly like you said. It was what we wanted, all the bells and whistles. And then we had kids, and then it was a minivan. Now my kids are at an age now where they’re heading out and we’ve transitioned back into the things that we like. So it’s very very interesting you put it that way. With a strategic plan, let’s take it down a level. It’s not as intimidating or as laborious, right, to put that together, is it?
Jeff: No, it’s not. A strategic plan could deal with, “I have a work situation where I’m going to have to talk with one of my employees.” The strategic plan is, “Ok, I need to talk with this employee. I need to bring up this information and my outcome is, I want the employee to follow the rules,” or whatever the situation is. That’s a strategic plan. You have your situation, you have your plan of how to address it. And then the outcome is whatever you want.
Eric: As I’m sitting here, it makes me realize that if I go into a situation like that without a plan, typically…it’s not going to be such a good result.
Jeff: You’re reacting instead of responding to the situation. And then the human dynamic part of it is, if you’re trying to be emotionally smart, use your emotional intelligence, the way you present it to that employee takes a big chunk of that. Because if you know your employee well, you’ll know that they just want to know exactly what’s going on. They don’t want it sugarcoated. Someone else you may have to approach from a different angle. So that’s all in that strategic planning.
Eric: That’s good because I think that makes it much more approachable and not as intimidating to do. So I’m going to go a little different direction and talk about the extremes and things of that nature. Reactive, cautious and those things. I would imagine these are things that potentially could get you in trouble. And so can you elaborate a little bit?
Jeff: Consequential thinking goes over a spectrum. The easiest one to understand is “reactive” where there is no consequential thinking, you don’t think about the outcome, you don’t think about how you’re going to address the situation. You just go into it and attack it. So that’s the reactive end. And then you go through different stages and then you finally get to the “cautious.” And the cautious stage is where you spend so much time using consequential thinking, weighing the facts and figures, really spending too much time on a precise outcome. Where you actually get to the point where you can’t make a decision.
Eric: So analysis paralysis.
Jeff: Exactly. And so that’s the “cautious.” That’s the extent of it. So you want to have a balance. When I’m doing a debrief with somebody that has high consequential thinking, that’s one of the areas that we explore with them. Are you able to make a decision? And sometimes, yes, they have the high consequential thinking but they know how to use it. Or they use it as a safety net to not make a decision.
Eric: So if I understand you right, let’s be aware of the extremes and try to find someplace in balance where you’re not reacting without any plan, without any consideration or consequential thinking. Or the “cautious” which is the other side of “Oh my gosh, I need to think more, I want to look at more, I will look at more.” You just can’t you can’t make the decision.
Jeff: It’s funny sometimes. Work committees are the same way. Or with work committees, they might have some people that are reactive and some people that are the cautious and then they can’t ever make a decision. Because the “cautious” people are not getting any of the information they need. The “reactive” people are bored already. They already know what they want to do. So these are all dynamics that can happen within teams, with organizations. I’m sure there are lots of businesses that probably failed because they were at the extreme as a business. “Reactive” or too “cautious” where they made stupid decisions, or they had a decision they needed to make and they never got to it.
Eric: That’s really powerful Jeff because I can think about it even from my own life, be it work, be it family or whatever, where I’ve reacted and my emotions just drove the train of how I felt about it at that moment in time. And then after the fact, after the damage was done, reflection comes in and you go, “You know what, I really wish I wouldn’t have used those words.” So your tips are right on the money. I’ve never been one too much to swing on the cautious side because I’m not very patient. But at the same time, I think that’s a great illustration of those two poles and how you need to find that center if you will. I think the takeaway is that consequential thinking is a tool to help you do better at a lot of the things, including those that we’ve been talking about in the previous podcasts as well.
Jeff: It helps you focus on the outcome. I don’t like to give a lot of homework because I know everybody is busy but after you listen to the podcast, think of a situation, after it’s over, think about how you approached it. What was your pre-work, whether it was long involved or just in the spur of the moment? What did you decide to do? What did you do and then did the outcome meet what you wanted? And just take a minute. Some people want to write that out. That’s fine if you just let it go through your head. And it could be anything from “Did I go McDonald’s or did I decide to get a better meal.” It could be a big thing, you could be buying a car and getting a job.
Eric: One thing that we haven’t talked about. Would you advise finding someone that you could bounce your strategic plan off of? Look at it in our case. We’re sitting here together. We’ve been doing these and if I say “Hey, Jeff, I’m thinking in the next podcast I’m going to try this,” just to get your feedback, just to get your advice. Do you think that’s a good idea?.
Jeff: That is a good idea, as long as you understand somebody else is coming at it from a different direction, and you take it that way. That, if you’re asking someone to be honest with you, listen to what they’re saying. And if it fits, fine. If it doesn’t fit, that’s ok too. But just don’t take it as an attack if they don’t say what you want them to say.
Eric: That’s very good. But at a minimum, I think we’ve made it clear…plan this stuff. Use the consequential thinking to help move you where you need to be. So from that perspective then, Jeff, I think that brings us to the end of this podcast. Great to see you again. Great to hear your voice and we look forward to the next time.
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