Last time, I talked about how we sometimes need to change our outlook to help us gain perspective.
Sometimes, we need to go even further than that. When I’m at less than my best, I can tend to have an expectation that everyone will behave/think/react the way I do. I know this is completely unrealistic but we all have our off days!
Whilst I’m busy expecting a colleague/shop assistant/the driver in the next lane to behave like me, I am never going to be able to understand them or their actions. We are the product of our experiences, our upbringing, our values, our choices: all of which make us – thankfully – unique.
In order for me to stop winding myself up because others aren’t just like me, I need to step outside of my own outlook and take on the other person’s. One of my favourite role models of empathy is Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. He says to his daughter:
“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Atticus Finch is an inspiring character. A small town lawyer who takes on a controversial case because he believes it’s the right thing to do, Atticus brings up his children to take the time to understand others and clearly demonstrates the benefits of doing so.
Unless we live a hermit-like existence, we all need to develop our understanding of others. To help me and my coaching clients to do so, I use the following questions:
- What’s motivating (the other person)?
- What’s the bottom line in this situation?
- How does he feel about this?
- What else might be going on here?
Obviously, these questions don’t apply to every situation. I’m not suggesting we analyse the motives of the driver who’s just ‘stolen’ our parking space or wonder what the bottom line is for the shop assistant who’s having to interrupt his debrief on last night’s football match to serve us. However, think of the last frustrating conversation you had in the office or at home. Why was it frustrating? Were you struggling to get the other person to see your point of view? Were you seeing the situation only from your perspective?
Today’s pebble for you: what simple trick could you use to help you see the other person’s point of view?
Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.
If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we can work together?