With a double chocolate ice cream cone in one hand, popcorn in the other, a tear or two streaming down your cheek, the song on the radio is too precise a relation to the happenings in your life it surely must be about you. Why else would this song perfectly explain life at this exact moment?
In your corporate life, you’ve probably read a team email from your manager and couldn’t help but think this email was directed to you. I’m here to ease your concern and to suggest that it is more likely the result of a general theme vs. a direct message to you.
It’s our inherent human nature that causes us to view the world with our own eyes and to be frank we’re the only ones living inside our own head and body so it’s natural to view the world from this angle. It’s an art to comprehend the world through other people’s eyes or “to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”.
The image below is a terrific depiction of how the world can be viewed from different perspectives. Both pictures were taken on the same day but in different parts of the world. The above image was taken, “Somewhere in Konkan through the train window…” on the way to beautiful Goa in India courtesy of David John @Serial__Clicker on Instagram, while the bottom one was captured by me in Guelph Ontario in Canada in response to David’s picture. Here we experience two completely and very opposite perceptions of the world at the same moment in time. This isn’t too far from reality within the workplace.
Think back to the last time you were annoyed by that person that was trailing closely behind you on the highway. In your head were you thinking, “it must be because I’m driving too slowly, what a jerk”. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had these thoughts. I’ve lived it, I’ve experienced it, and if you’re a driver, it’s likely you’ve had these thoughts as well. This used to be a regular frustration during my daily commute to work, as well during my daily commute home. In the whole scheme of things, these small things impede your ability to start your day on a positive note. My personal breakthrough came when I began to put myself in that driver’s shoes. I envisioned situations where I’ve been the person driving closely behind the car in front of me. By achieving this sense of awareness I came to understand that the majority of the time when I was the culprit I had a reason for it. Maybe I had an appointment that I was late for, maybe someone at home was sick and needed my comfort. By looking at the situation from this alternate angle, you may start to experience empathy, and with that, you may be more willing to change lanes and allow them to move on with their life. Chances are they’ll thank you in one way or another, and you’ll shorten the timeframe that you would have suffered from internal frustration in your “old world”. This can be a very effective avenue for starting your day off with a positive jumping off point.
As a manager, coach, and mentor, I’ve experienced similar situations in the workplace on numerous occasions. A recent experience had an employee stressing over and making assumptions about the subject of the next day’s team meeting. This employee proceeded to spend several hours after work preparing an evidenced-based rebuttal in anticipation of a defensive battle. All that time expended, only to find out the meeting took on a different tone altogether and the subject of the meeting was much different than the one anticipated. In this situation, not only was time-wasted but wouldn’t the extra-curricular time have been better served by performing some research and development or training to progress that employee’s own career? These situations never completely go away, we’re humans and we have emotions. In my experience they tend to be more apparent with new (fresher) employees because they’re still learning the ropes, they want to do their best, it’s natural for them to be sensitive in certain situations, and of course, they don’t know you as a manager like the other team members do. Give it time and put in some active management, you can’t eliminate it, but you can reduce anxiety and assumptions with open and candid communication, and most importantly lead by example.
It is human nature to assume things, our minds fill in the blanks with what we’ve seen and what we’ve experienced in the past. It takes time to develop an awareness, and for me, I continue to learn how to see the world with different eyes each day. I’ll sign off with a quote about assumptions, “If you make assumptions before truly understanding the other side, more often than not you’ll find yourself being the first three letters of the word assumptions.”
Your tomorrow’s best you starts now.