He that can have patience can have what he will. – Ben Franklin
Picture a window into the human brain where you can witness how it processes the ideas, suggestions, observations and experiences that enter it through the five senses. You would note that before it can accept an idea or order an action, the brain requires time to go through a digestive process. It must digest ideas, facts, figures, plans, proposals, sounds, sights, smells sensations, just as the stomach digests food.
Not understanding this, we plow ahead through life, giving each other mental indigestion (and causing ourselves indigestion, as well), blaming one another for something of which we’re all guilty. We cram each other’s minds with too many undigested – sometimes indigestible – ideas, facts, figures and arguments, and wonder why our business and professional associates don’t readily accept our ideas and plans. To be fair, it happens in our personal lives, also.
Consider the process by which you digest food. The first stage is mastication or chewing, which takes place in the mouth. The second stage is in the stomach, during which food is mixed with digestive juices. The third is the absorption of nourishment into the bloodstream and assimilation through the digestive system.
In your mental digestive process, the mastication stage would involve reading, listening, discussing, arguing. Churning occurs when the idea/suggestion/plan is attacked by knowledge, experience, doubt, hope, suspicion, fear, faith. Finally, there is either assimilation or rejection if the mind is unconvinced. Be aware that even though words might state otherwise, digestion and assimilation might still not be complete.
Mental digestion, unlike the digestion of food, might take a split-second or days or months or more. It depends upon the individual and the subject matter to be digested.
In order to work effectively with your associates, to get your ideas accepted, you must allow time for mental digestion, understand the process, and not be impatient when your counterpart appears not to be dazzled with your brilliance. They’re not necessarily stalling. They’re asking for time for mental digestion.
We all have different rates of mental digestion. Do you make allowances for mental pace in your human relationships?
Similarly, do you sometimes mis-interpret mental pace? A fast mental pace, or tempo, does not necessarily mean that the ideas presented have been thoroughly digested. Nor does a deliberate mental process assure complete digestion and assimilation of an idea; it may mean the individual has a slow mental tempo.
Do you understand your own mental pace and how it impacts your communications with others? If you can recognize the mental tempo of those with whom you’re communicating and accommodate them accordingly, how might that improve communications, enhance relationships and advance your professional or personal agenda?
Following are some practical aids for mental digestion that may increase your effectiveness dealing with people, individually or in groups, or in leading meetings:
- Predigest your own ideas and plans before exposing them to anyone. This will improve your own mental digestion and give you a reputation for thoroughness.
- Expect and welcome resistance. Encourage questions. Questions speed the mental digestive process. Prepare and suggest a few questions of your own that address anticipated objections or reservations, then solicit more from the group. This relaxes the mind(s) of the other party(ies) by demonstrating that you are approaching the project/conversation with an open mind and will encourage mature deliberation – and thorough digestion.
- Launch your ideas and plans as far as possible ahead of the time a decision or action will be required. Allow for leisurely consideration and avoid the pressures that can cause mental indigestion.
- Stimulate the appetite for your ideas by “sampling’ them in advance of the time for formal consideration. Kickstart the digestive process in the other person or persons by giving them a sample of your idea. Then, request feedback so you can make adjustments that can promote complete digestion and assimilation later.
- Be painstaking in presenting your ideas and patient while allowing others to digest them. You’ll save time and win friends.
- Avoid abstractions and use numbers and technical specifications sparingly, if at all. If absolutely necessary, feed them slowly and repeatedly so they may be digested. There is nothing in abstractions for mental gastric juice to work on. Use real facts.
- Use analogies and/or demonstrations. The best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick alongside it.
- Allow breaks. When you recognize a person is suffering from mental indigestion of a matter, change the subject for a while to allow the digestive juices of the mind to work for a while. Then, return to the issue later.
- Change topics when you see that a particular point antagonizes a person. His mental muscles will cramp and stop the digestive process. Discuss something less challenging to allow his mind to digest the testy issue.
- Allow time for assimilation. Even once a plan or idea has been agreed to, allow a reasonable time period for assimilation by all parties involved. Until then, there won’t be any momentum behind it.
Constantly Improve Your Own Mental Digestion
- Carefully organize a problem or situation for mental digestion. Listing facts, figures, phases and perspectives prepares the information for the brain in the same way as chewing food thoroughly before swallowing prepares it for the stomach.
- Talk less, listen more. Most of us would make faster and better decisions if we would spend 25% more time listening, 25% more time thinking, and cut talking by 50%.
- Jumpstart pre-digestive processes by anticipating and organizing ‘problems’ ahead of time, as if they were current. This helps avoid spur-of-the-moment decision making.
- Spend time alone for contemplation. Take a walk and think on it.
- Cultivate patience toward the mental digestive processes of others. Be sure you, as well as they, understand the matter completely in order for it to be effectively assimilated.