I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies. – Le Corbusier
One of the reasons I grew interested in visual thinking was because of how effective it was in reasoning with little children. If you have young kids you’ll know how close they are to an outburst when things don’t go their way. And I found that trying to talk them down was about as useful as whispering poetry to a bear that has come across you trespassing on his patch.
But, if you pick up a pen and start trying to draw the problem to talk about it – you find that they get involved, intrigued, interested. And quite quickly you’ll find that they’ll grab the pen and get involved in the narrative and then you’re on your way to being able to talk about what’s going on in a way you just couldn’t do if you tried to talk about it.
But getting that engagement is really only the first part. That’s about building trust in the process and trying to get a common point of view. The reason for the discussion, on the other hand, is to figure out what to do, what will work for everyone involved. It’s a negotiation – and in a good negotiation everyone walks away with something that they’re a little disappointed with.
If you’re ever in that situation how should you start with a drawing? I tend to start with faces and emotions – how are we feeling right now? Perhaps something that explains the context, the situation. And then I tend to follow up with options and alternatives.
When you have things laid out in front of you it’s a little easier to deal with the emotions and with the reality. I wonder if that has to do with the way we think about things. Feelings come out with sounds, don’t they. A child cries when he or she is unhappy – so the sound channel is essential to articulate how they feel. If you try and use the same channel to talk things through you’re essentially talking at the same time as a loud noise is blaring in the background. But if you draw, you’re going through a visual channel – something the child can process at the same time while they’re fully engaging their auditory channels in crying their hearts out.
There’s something here about being able to use all of our potential. Speech alone is a powerful tool but we need more than that to really connect with others sometimes and children teach us how to do this very effectively. If you want to reach a child you have to use every sense you have – visual, auditory, kinesthetic. They have an attention span that can be measured in tens of seconds. But, if you get them interested, they can spend minutes, hours, eons immersed in play – something that looks like deep work in adults.
I suppose the thing to take away is that talking is good – but talking and drawing is better. And if you can combine talking and drawing and moving – you’re on your way to creating a truly successful interaction with someone else – the kind of interaction that tends to make things better.