Unlocking Communication; how different viewpoints elevate conversationsAug 31, 2023
I have my map of the world and you have your map – are we able to make a map together that we both understand?
When I was starting my study to be a coach, one of the concepts that was introduced was the idea of each of us having our own map. Our map is the way we view the world. The expectations we have of how things will or should be, how people should behave, what is acceptable and what is not, the list goes on! Our map is formed through our experiences (positive and negative) as we learn and grow. We work off our map all of the time, we are just not always aware of it.
The more study I did, the more I realised how attached I was to my map. Yes, I could see other peoples perspectives, but I often found myself coming back to my map, as if my set of directions was somehow better than someone else’s because they are reinforced by my life experience. The thing is, there is no better, right or only way to do something, it’s just different. And different is not bad.
Different needs to be embraced.
Different is where we learn, grow and empower people to do their best work.
Are you more likely to base a decision on something you have experienced and therefore ‘know’ or something someone is telling you? Our experience is a big driver when it comes to our behaviour. Once we have an experience and we determine it to be good or bad, that informs our cognitive bias, which keeps confirming our view. The downside is this is not always helpful when it comes to seeing other people’s point of view.
How many times have you heard or used this phrase “I hear you but …”
What ever comes next is normally a different version of “I hear you but I am going to stick with my view” which in other words means I hear you but I am not taking on board what you are saying.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of this you will know this phrase is not a way of seeing other people’s perspectives, it’s a way of shutting them down. It indicates that to you, your held view is superior.
So what is another way to step off your map to have the ability to see things differently?
Firstly, get curious! Ask a question, that helps you to understand the other persons point of view such as “what are the things that make you think or feel that way?” Now you are starting to understand the foundations the other person’s map is built on. What is informing their perspective?
Based on that knowledge, follow up with a question that helps you to understand how they have come to that decision or viewpoint.
If you find yourself still coming back to your view, explain why you think it will deliver the best outcomes. You can then ask “what have I missed?” This provides the other person an opportunity to build on, or add to your map, which gives them an opportunity to have input and for everyone involved to arrive at the best outcomes together.
All of this is based on your ability to focus on the conversation and listen with intent.
Now you know about your map, reflect on areas where you may be stuck in your way of thinking. Consciously take the time to put it down and ask for directions armed with the knowledge that no one’s map is right or has all the answers.
Start a conversation and introduce the language of the map with your team. This creates a starting point where you can let people know “this is what my map is telling me, what does your map say?”. Inviting people to be a part of shared decision making creates an opportunity for you to learn about others and their perspective, encourages them to speak up and contribute ideas. It’s a win - win situation.
Remember that yours and other people’s maps are getting you to the same outcome, they just have different directions on how to get there. Incorporating these strategies into your leadership approach will increase your understanding and create a more inclusive and collaborative work environment that builds relationships based on mutual respect and empathy.
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