The Insight Loop
Understanding How Our Minds Work in Conflict
The Insight Loop is an illustration of how we use our minds. It’s useful because it shows the intuitive - yet rarely explicit - pattern that guides our thinking all day, every day.
As an explanatory tool, the Insight Loop enhances our self awareness and grows our curiosity about others, leading to more collaborative, fruitful interactions.
Jamie Price developed the Insight Loop in 2013 based on the cognitional theory of Bernard Longergan as a seminal contribution to the Insight approach to conflict analysis and resolution with colleagues Cheryl Picard and Ken Melchin.
What the Insight Loop shows is that we use our mind in a continuous pattern, all day every day.
We often lose sight of this pattern, because the sequence is automatic. Each step builds off the other and generates new data for the sequence that follows. It’s a lot like walking. We don’t pay much attention to the mechanics of it, until of course something forces us to - like a stumble or an injured knee.
When it comes to how we use our minds, we don’t think about it unless something directs us to. A puzzle, a hard choice. And even then, we often focus more on the solution than on what we’re doing to work through it.
The Insight Loop helps us make sense of what we are doing when we’re using our minds. It has been an essential tool in the Insight approach because it draws our attention to how we interact, how we make meaning, and what influences our actions. This is especially important in conflict when we tend to be certain about what we think we know and righteous in our actions. We tend to react rather than reflect.
This makes perfect sense given that conflict behavior - the things we do that lead to conflict interactions - are rooted in a decision to defend in response to a feeling of threat. We are intent on defending, so we’re not curious. We simply want to stop the bad thing by dominating, winning, avoiding.
In conflict, we are operating under the stress of threat so we aren’t using our minds as well as we could be. But, when we understand the pattern of how we use our mind in conflict, we can use it to direct our curiosity and improve our performance for better decision making that ups the chance of constructive rather than destructive outcomes.
Moving Through the Loop
How does the Insight Loop work?
Let’s take it for a spin. Below, I outline each step in the Insight Loop, or Patterned Flow of Consciousness, to use Jamie Price’s term, which slows down the thought process into the micro-moments that make up our looping.
Imagine the flow of your mind as a continuous process - this looping figure 8. It is nestled in your “carriers of consciousness” - those elements of personal history, knowledge, context, culture, role, language etc. that direct your attention and shape what occurs to you at any given time.
We use our minds in this pattern all the time, whether we're smelling coffee, contemplating the meaning of a thought, sensing danger, or interpreting someone's gaze. It’s the pattern that puts meaning to what we experience and leads us to act on it in all of our daily routines, both in and out of conflict.
However, in conflict, it's important to recognize that our minds don't function optimally. We tend to jump to conclusions and engage in conflict behavior, perpetuating negative interactions.
At the Center for Applied Insight Conflict Resolution, the Insight Loop is used as a tool for understanding conflict behavior within training sessions for a variety of careers and settings.
Understanding the Insight Loop is useful beyond its application in the workplace. In general, it helps us pay attention to how we’re using our minds so we can wonder what otherwise we take for granted: “How do I know?” “How does this matter to me?” “What am I trying to achieve by responding in this way?” These questions follow the patterned flow of consciousness and engage our critical thinking, enhance our self-awareness, and lead us to wonder about others, which can lead to more positive interactions that help us achieve our goals and improve our relationships.