“How do you even see it that way?” “Were we in the same meeting?”
Do you hear these questions in your head and, maybe not as subtly as you think, shake your head in disbelief?
The contradiction: we invite differing viewpoints to expand our understanding in order to open up new creative ideas, and yet sometimes differing viewpoints can cause completely befuddled conversations, resulting in major confusion and miscommunication.
Taking note of another’s perspective is not an unknown important leadership and communication consideration. And yet, how often do we still marvel at what someone else sees, understands or believes from a shared experience or conversation?
Personally, I remember moment after moment where I realized, “Wow, they have a totally different understanding of the phrase I just used.” Or, “Wow, they experienced something that I didn’t think happened at all.”
Where are you entering from?
This makes me think of a state park that I recently visited. I live in CO and try to get out and go hiking in local open space parks as often as possible. There’s one park, Mt. Falcon, that we simply love. It happens to have two different entrances – an east and a west. Many parks do but this park’s two entrances are quite different from each other. From the west the short drive winds through quiet, small, front range towns and neighborhoods, and when you arrive you are rewarded with stunning views of the Colorado Rockies, as well as the city of Denver sweeping out to the plains. There are pines and wind and a wide path wending through the middle and narrow trails that let you explore.
The east entrance creates a very different experience. Whether people choose the east or the west entrance can greatly influence how they experience the park and their overall impression of it. From the east, one sees open fields leading to a steep rocky incline. Hot. Open. Exposed. No trees to offer cover. Entering from the lower elevation, one takes a steep trail leading out across a field looking up at jagged rocks that demands switch backs to the top. Great for physical training! The west entrance is tree covered with mountain views that grab your breath. Trees. Vistas. The wind in the pines can be so powerful and calmingly exhilarating. The east is often windswept and encourages you to duck your head.
They obviously lead to the same ruins of an old home built by Italian stone masons. They are the same park, but what was your experience?
Now back to work:
Which meeting did you attend? Which entrance with which experience? What behavior or words are you judging and with what conclusions?
If only we had a map to pull out. We could locate and then drive to the other entrance to gain perspective.
It’s similar to when we kept hearing people mention how exposed and harsh Mt. Falcon was. Without realizing there even was another entrance, we found ourselves responding with “Really?” We love the trees and sweeping views. We literally pulled out the map and were enabled to have a viewpoint adjustment. We drove to the other entrance and experienced a “different” park.
Three Things to Make the Perspective Shift:
- Map. Perhaps we can call on the metaphoric map as a quick check in with another so that we can ask questions on what they are seeing and experiencing. This is especially important when their experience seems to contrary to ours.
- Question. When we practice the art of curiosity through listening and questioning, we have a greater chance to end up at the same place, even while coming from different entrances/perspectives.
- Acknowledge. Both entrances are legitimate ways into the park. It’s helpful to acknowledge there are different ways to the same conclusion even though our journeys and experiences may be different.
So, let’s be mindful when we dismiss another perspective before checking out the other park entrance.