It’s natural to assume that others see what’s going on in exactly the same ways that we do. I was reminded several times in the last 24 hours that such an assumption is often mistaken.
The first reminder came during a book discussion. The moderator asked each of twenty relative strangers to describe his or her reactions to several quotations in the book. Before the discussion was over, it was clear to me that no one else in the group held the same views I did on any aspect of the book. I was shocked.
The second reminder occurred during a televised news report about increased sightings of blue lobsters. The weatherman observed that when you were as color blind as he is, all lobsters always look alike in their grayness.
I had wondered for years why this weatherman wore clothes with such strange combinations of colors. Now I finally knew!
While thinking about these two experiences, I was reminded of many times when I had learned a great deal. In each instance, I was with someone much more experienced and knowledgeable than I was.
Rather than lecturing me, these individuals encouraged me to speak first … either by relating an experience or by asking a question. It wasn’t unusual for there to be a few follow-up questions and sharing of a story of two.
While I thought at the time that such exchanges were just sociable, it now occurs to me that these wise people were instead taking my measure so that they would know how to share what they knew in ways that I could understand and would accept.
In other words, I was being gently sized up!
From these memories, I also began to appreciate how I often do the same thing with others. If someone answers just a few questions for me, I can be much more efficient in sharing information and working with them. I also recalled that those I questioned were usually more eager to answer if promised that they would eventually be able to find out how others had answered the same questions … without being put on the spot due to having answered differently.
These experiences suggested to me that most people want to know what others think about many things. Perhaps that curiosity is part of why polls are done so often and frequently shared during news programs.
I also remembered that one reason I like to read is because I gain a much deeper understanding of the author, the author’s perspective, and the author’s knowledge. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone we met first shared some autobiographical writing with us so we could grasp them more easily and accurately?
Perhaps that’s why many people report learning more from writing about what they are investigating and trying to do than by memorizing facts and taking tests. What many of such learners don’t fully appreciate is how writing can give them greater access to those who can help.
For instance, someone with only ten minutes to spare would be able to read 2,000 words and share a quick reaction to the material. More might be accomplished than during two hours of intense discussions held without first obtaining much background information.
And because it’s easier to find the time to spend 10 minutes communicating than for a much longer session, much more frequent feedback can be shared.
That’s an important part of what one of my faculty colleagues at Rushmore University, Professor Henry Zhao, shared with me as my final recent reminder of how differently we each perceive what’s going on around us.
I wasn’t surprised that he brought me such a view. His background is much different than mine.
Professor Zhao is a seasoned Business and Technology leader in software and Information Technology management with over 20 years industrial experience. He now serves as Head of Global Information Technology, a CIO role, for Monolithic Power Systems, a public company based in San Jose, California.
Born in China (Hong Qiang Zhao), Henry completed college with distinction to win a full scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom. He completed an MS degree in Electronic Engineering and a Ph.D. in Instrumentation and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester.
Henry is a dedicated teacher who loves to learn about students and to share his own experiences with them, building mutually beneficial insights and understanding. He finds written papers to be enormously valuable for his Internet-based individual tutorials.
Here is what he likes about the process:
“I always find it enjoyable to share my experiences with others, while learning about an individual student’s needs, career questions and aspirations. I see teaching as a two-ways street, and I would never want to stop learning myself so that I can do more to help students.”
What are the lessons you should apply to your life?
1. Take the time to ask others to describe how they perceive what you, too, can observe.
2. When you encounter differences from your own perceptions and perspective, ask others to explain why they use the point of view that they do.
3. Test any perspectives that you might adopt with objective measurements.
4. Seek to incorporate any valuable new perspectives into your own interrogation of what’s going on around you.
5. Share your observations in writing with more experienced and knowledgeable people so that they can more quickly appreciate how to help you increase in effectiveness.
6. Look for new people to gain perspectives from.
7. Read books in different subjects and apply what you learn in innovative ways.
With these seven lessons, I believe that you can continue to improve your understanding and effectiveness in fundamental ways that will give you the winner’s edge in global competition.
And remember: Don’t assume that others see what you do.
Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit http://www.rushmore.edu