Here’s Some Perspective

Earlier this week I was involved in a long-term vision planning session at our church. I love strategy sessions like this, because any strategy session I’ve ever been a part of, be it for work, church, or family, has yielded a number of differing perspectives and ideas from the people assembled.  Never once has everyone in a group shown up with the exact same perspective.  In fact, if that were to ever happen, I’d assume that the wrong people had been assembled for the task.

Different perspectives are crucial in setting direction and strategy, or for making decisions that will impact a larger group of people.  However, they can cause tension and frustration, which isn’t a bad thing.  Group members just need to understand these key points regarding peoples’ perspectives:

  • The perspectives of others are just a real and true to them as our perspectives are to us. As a result, we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss someone’s perspective simply because it doesn’t align with our own.
  • When we fail to consider the perspectives of others, we miss an opportunity to get a better understanding about how others within the larger group may be thinking. If on person has a particular perspective, it’s likely other do as well.
  • If we dismiss or ignore someone’s perspective in the decision making process, simply because it is different from ours, we can have a high degree of confidence that we will not be getting their buy-in to whatever decision is made.

We can learn a lot about people and groups of people when we listen with genuine interest to understand their perspective and where it comes from.  I think one of the highest honors we can pay someone is to listen to and seek to understand their perspective, even when we don’t agree with it at first.

The next time you are in a conversation where there are differing perspectives, don’t be too quick to dismiss the ones that don’t align with your own.  Instead, use the difference as an opportunity to gain some understanding as to where the other person is coming from. Not only will you possibly gain some new understanding, you’ll most likely be making a connection with a fellow human being as well.

Why it’s not Always Good to Have All the Answers

It’s nice to have the answer to a question or problem.  But what happens when we think we have all the answers to every question, and that our answers are better than everyone else’s?

Here are 5 dangers of thinking we have all the answers:

  1. We won’t gain new skills and experience. When we think we have all the answers, we aren’t open to trying new approaches to solving problems.  This keeps us from gaining new skills that come from new experiences.
  2. Our problem solving skills will not improve. If we already know the answer to every question, we won’t have opportunity to exercise our problem solving skills.  Instead, we’ll continue to simply rely on our own limited knowledge and miss the challenge of considering new methods to solve a problem.
  3. We won’t be able to collaborate with or leverage the knowledge of others. If think we know everything, we won’t seek assistance from others, or avail ourselves to the knowledge and experience they have.  This limits our exposure to new thoughts and ideas that we may have never heard or considered.
  4. We are not likely to attract or keep good thinkers on our teams. Good thinkers don’t want to be around people that have all the answers, because good thinkers like to think and share ideas. If we have all the answers, the good thinkers around us will go elsewhere; and take their good thinking with them.
  5. We’ll never create anything bigger than ourselves. If we rely only on what we know and our limited answers, we waste opportunities to collaborate with others in order to create something that is much bigger than ourselves.  How can we possibly create something bigger than ourselves if we only rely on our own limited knowledge?

Don’t get me wrong, its’ good to have answers to questions and problems, and when we have answers, we should share them with others.  However, I think it’s foolish to assume that we are possible of having ALL the answers to EVERY problem or question.

If, in the very rare case, we do indeed have all the answers to every question or problem we encounter, that is probably a good indication we need to step out of our comfort zone and do something else.

Let Others Go First

So what do you do when you’re in a meeting or a conversation with someone, and each of you has something important to say or share?  Do you start talking over each other until one participant gives up and lets the other continue?  Do you minimize the other person’s position or topic and stress the importance yours until they finally “realizes” that they need to be quiet and consider themselves “blessed” to be hearing your thoughts and opinions?  No, those are bad suggestions.

Instead, I would suggest that you let the other person go first.

It’s tough, waiting to share a great idea or information with others.  Especially when it’s something you’ve put a lot of time and thought into.  You’re excited by the work you’ve done and want to share it with others.  However, it’s important to realize the other person is just as eager to share their idea with you.

Here’s why I suggest letting the other person go first:  If you go first, they won’t really be listening to you, because they will be preoccupied waiting for an opportunity to share their thought.  For me, I’d rather let someone go first and have their full attention as I go second.

Here some suggestions to keep in mind when letting someone go first:

  • Jot down what you want to share so you don’t forget.
  • Invite the other person to go first by saying something like, “I’ve got a thought on this, but I’d like to hear your take first. What do you think?”
  • Actually listen to what they say.  If you fake it, and just pretend to listen, they’ll know, and you can expect likewise when it’s your turn.
  • Ask for feedback or clarification you might need on what they said.
  • When it’s you turn, point out any similarities or places where your thoughts intersect with the other person’s.

Letting the other person go first doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have their undivided attention, but at least you’ll increase the likelihood of having it.  And if they are totally checked out or disinterested in what you’re saying, that’s a strong signal as to their potential involvement or support for your idea, which is good to know, because you can then look for others to share your idea with who would be more supportive.

Ultimately, others go first is about paving the way for better communication with others, and increasing the probability of being heard by others, as well as hearing them.

So give it a try in the weeks ahead.  When you have the opportunity, let someone else go first and see what happens.  My hunch is that not only will more of your ideas get heard, the other person will appreciate the respect you showed them by letting them go first, and listening to what they said.