I’m showing my age by quoting Beatles lyrics but I will justify it by claiming that their work is timeless. Certainly, the idea that we want people to understand our point of view is timeless as well as being pretty much universal.
At work this week we have been undertaking some behavioural/personality profiling and, whilst I wouldn’t say I learned an awful lot more about myself (since I have consciously been on that journey for the last 25 years) it did help to remind me about some core aspects of my own personality. It also contained a phrase that hit the nail on the head for me and reminded me that even those closest to us are differently wired – not wrongly wired, just differently.
Important as it is for me, to look at what limits me and to understand my reactions to others, what was most important was to be reminded that other people see and relate to the world entirely differently to me.
It is a real challenge to understand that things that we see as obvious, unquestionable, natural even are anything but to another person. To share the line that hit my nail on the head: “If Ian has accepted a task, he will normally complete it. It can be difficult for him to understand others who do not have the same attitude.”
That last bit is so bang on – my view of the world is exactly that and that is normal and as it should be – TO ME. I spend a lot of my life wrestling to understand others who don’t have that attitude rather than just accepting it is the case – you might remember I wrote about stress last week and how it derives from wanting things/people to be a certain way when they just aren’t.
Not only are we are heavily invested in wanting people to understand us, we also want people to see things our way and can get massively frustrated if (when) they “fail.”
There is a very well-known leadership book called “The 7 Habits of Successful People” – it is quite hard work to get into but the habits are powerful. One of them is “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”
One of my colleagues in the office got the following from her profile “her attitude is- We’ll manage.”
It is an attitude that drives me mad and I try like crazy to change her and make her more responsible and less glib. But for us to work successfully together we need to learn a little from each other. She is not wrong, I am not right (but neither is the reverse true). To understand her, at its most basic, I must accept how she is and want to understand her. It is that simple, although it may not prove easy.
If we respond to people wanting to know them better, to understand them, then we will have a much easier relationship with them than if we simply decide they need changing. That is not to say change isn’t needed, it is to say that in our rush to change them we are failing to see the need for change in us. The simple change from command and control to understanding and collaboration changes the whole relationship – less tension, less impatience, greater bonding.
I hope by now you’ve realised I’m not just talking about relationships at work. We have all (at some point) tried to change people, our partner (we may have tried so hard they’re now our ex-partner or our soon to be ex-partner) and our children prime amongst them.
There has to be a leader in moving relationships forward, adopting the attitude of trying to see it their way is an act of leadership. It doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you believe in (or possibly anything you believe in) it is simply about accepting someone as they are – not making them wrong – and wanting to know them better.
With my best, Ian
Guest Wellbeing Director