April 21, 2015

Influencing mindsets

There are several ways to foster a growth mindset in other people. Below, I'll describe a few of them. 

When people begin to understand and experience the benefits of a growth mindset they often become interested in the question how they might foster a growth mindset in other people. This is especially the case with people in guiding roles such as parents, teachers, and managers. There are many ways in which you can influence other people's mindsets. Some of them are more direct, others are more indirect. With direct ways of influencing mindsets I mean stating or explaining something. With indirect ways of influencing I mean behavior in which you do not state or explain something but still influence the other person. I will give a few examples. 

Direct ways
Examples of direct influencing are informing, normalizing, and giving process compliments. Informing is providing information about anything that might be relevant for a growth mindset. For example, you might explain what the growth mindset is and what its benefits are. Also, you might show videos about the growth mindset. Yet another way is to share research findings, for example about discoveries about neuroplasticity).

Normalizing is especially relevant when people say they find something difficult and doubt whether they will ever be able to make any progress. Normalizing, in this context, might be to acknowledge that the topic is hard and that is thus normal what the other person is experiencing.  For example, when a student say: "I don't understand these calculations at all! I will never understand this!", the teacher might normalize by saying: "It is normal to find these calculations hard. This is indeed one of the harder parts of this subject." By doing this, the student will be less inclined to conclude: "I must be too stupid for this", and more inclined to conclude: "Apparently, it is normal to find this hard." Then, the teacher can proceed by informing the student by saying something like: "If you put in some extra effort, I'll bet you'll make progress."

Process compliments are compliments which are not about the person or a characteristic of a person but about what the person has done. A typical process compliment is: "I think it is great that you worked so hard at this." 

Indirect ways
Indirect ways of influencing work in more subtle ways but are not any less effective. Perhaps the most powerful example of influencing indirectly is the example which you set. If you, as a parent, show a growth mindset in your you life (for example by starting to learn a new language), there will be greater chance that your child will naturally follow your example. A manager who shows a growth mindset inspires employees to do the same. To be clear, I am not saying that you should only show a growth mindset to influence other people; you primarily do it to benefit from it yourself.

A second category of influencing indirectly is asking questions. I'll give three examples. A first example is to ask questions about the process with which the other person is engaged. Let's call these questions process questions. For example, when a child is making a drawing, you don't have to restrict yourself to "What a beautiful drawing!". By asking children what they are drawing you divert their attention from the result to the process (what am I trying to draw?). You can ask all sorts of questions about the process, such as: Can you tell me about your drawing? Is the drawing finished or will you draw some extra things? What are you going to draw next? Will you try to draw something new? Etcetera.

A second type of question is asking about past successes. When someone gets stuck in a learning process you may ask questions such as: "When, in the past, have you been able to overcome such difficulties?", or "When have been able to learn something really hard before? How did you do that? What worked well for you?"

A third example is to ask questions about desired progress. An example of such a question is: "How will you notice that you'll be making some progress?" When people start to think about such questions, in general, they will become more confident that progress is achievable. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner