How can you deal with information overload?
Say you’re having a catch-up with a member of your team and they give you a huge brain-dump of everything that’s been happening, everything they’re worried about, everything that’s in the way, everything they want to happen…
That’s information overload on multiple levels! They’ve got too much to think about at once – and now you have, too!
Clean Language provides some nifty approaches to the problem. Here’s one I recommend you don’t use – and three that are worth a try.
- DON’T ask, “Is there anything else about all of that?” That’s an opening-up kind of question, likely to result in another flood of content from your colleague. More information overwhelm for them, more information overwhelm for you.
- What’s more likely to help the client to do some new thinking is to get them focussed on something specific. Narrow them down, rather than opening them up. It’ll slow the client down, too, giving the facilitator time to regroup.
- One way to do that is to use three-part syntax and very specific questions, with slow delivery. Like this: “And x, and y, and z. And when x, what kind of x is *that* x?” Here, you are choosing one aspect of what’s been said to put your shared focus on.
- Another way of getting specific is to invite your colleague to choose where to focus. Ask something like, “And x, and y, and z. And when all of that, what are you drawn to?”
- An alternative approach is to help your colleague to step back and see the wood rather than the trees. This one is probably unique to Clean Language, because of the way it works with metaphor. You simply ask your colleague for a metaphor for the whole situation, by asking something like, “And x, and y, and z. And when all of that, all of that is like… what?” I tried this one on myself today, and discovered I had “too much on my plate – like trying to eat breakfast, dinner and tea all at once.” From there, use your Clean language coaching skills, notably the Power Switch question, to move the conversation forward.
- Thanks to my friends and colleagues Jackie Lawlor, Martin Ibbie and Olaf Lewitz for input on this topic.What other Clean Language approaches have helped you with information overload? Please comment below.