I used to think it was the advice I offered that provided the highest value to clients and friends. I talk to a number of people in different or challenging situations. Recently I have come to appreciate that it’s when I focus and listen to someone explain their situation, asking them questions from a caring perspective to help clarify their understanding, that I often provide the most value.
The Spaniel Method for Self-Recovery From a Dilemma
“The question to everyone’s answer is usually asked from within.” Steve Miller
“As is often the case with baffling errors it is really quite simple. We tend to fixate on incorrect assumptions, and overlook the obvious, surprisingly frequently. I have found that one way to break through such barriers is to use the ‘Spaniel’ method: Carefully explain the program to your dog. Since the dog knows nothing of programming, you must justify every statement you make. In the process you will often discover the mistake.”
W. W. Waite
I think it’s the attentive uncritical acceptance that a dog offers it’s owner, attentively listening, that untangles the internal network of interlocking assumptions and options. Depending upon how you naturally express yourself it may also help to write things down or sketch a diagram or picture of the situation to aid your exploration.
Two Hours of Clarity:
Questions For Your Answers
Which reminds me of the Quaker Clearness Committee model that can be requested by any member of the congregation. A clearness committee’s job is to help the focus person discover whether there is clarity to move forward with a matter, wait, or take other action.
“In advance of the meeting, the focus person should write up the matter on which clearness is sought and make it available to committee members. This should be identified as precisely as possible: relevant background factors should be mentioned; and clues, if any, about what lies ahead should be offered. The exercise is valuable not only for the committee members, but especially for the focus person.” Clearness Committees and Their Use in Personal Discernment By Jan Hoffman
Postscript: Spaniel Method is Also Called Rubberducking
“Did you you know, a rubber duck can help you solve your problem? Or, a teddy bear, or, heck, a table, whatever. Have you ever been called over to someone’s desk to help them solve a problem, and as they explain what they were doing to you they figure out the answer themselves?
The name “rubberducking” is based on a technique outlined in a footnote (7) on page 95 “The Pragmatic Programmer“, “Place a rubber duck on your monitor and describe your problems to it. There’s something magical about stating your problems aloud that makes the solution more clear.”