What You Don’t Know and Why It Matters
This post is for the leader, the amateur, the entrepreneur, the customer service rep, the HR specialist, the CEO, the employee, and the sales professional. In truth, this message is a for everyone because it can benefit everyone. In many circumstances (not all), we approach an individual, a prospective problem, a conversation and the situation with one major misconception: we think we know it all.
- Individuals or team: We know what is needed, and we’re determined to help them recognize that need.
- Problems: We know the issue, and we’re dedicated to helping the person (or team) solve that issue.
- Conversations: We know what needs to be said, and we’re committed to inspiring and helping the person (or team) hear the message.
- Situations: We know what needs to happen, and we’re devoted to making it happen.
Objectively, these can all look like great things. We’re committed in all cases. So why are any of them an issue?
We are committed to our goals, our perspectives, our interpretations, our understandings, and our visions. Despite how we attempt to convince ourselves that it’s about the other person’s (or the team) needs, and the corresponding benefits, our efforts still evolve out of our objectives. This limits our ability to learn or innovate with new ideas and insights.
This also interferes with the work we do, our communication, and the relationship we have with the other person or team, in every single situation. The old saying, “There’s more than meets the eye,” is all you need to remind yourself that no matter what, you can’t know it all. And this is the attitude you should aim to adapt. Let me illustrate to you how dramatically this would affect the way you might approach the 4 circumstances above.
- Individuals or team: We want to understand what they need, so what do they think they need?
- Problems: We want to help them solve a problem, so what is the issue from their perspective?
- Conversations: We know they are sending us a message, so what are they trying to communicate?
- Situations: What do hope to see happen and why is this their goal?
Do you see the difference? Everything becomes a question instead of a smug conclusion. Something for us to discover, unravel and explore–instead of something we define, decide and direct. It also gives us the opportunity to really listen, although research shows most of us do this poorly. This approach is advantageous for you and the other party, and I’ll tell you why.
Most importantly, it establishes a tone of respect. If you assume that you know it all and that your role is to tell them what you know, you are bound to leave them feeling belittled and ignored.
By giving their opinions genuine regard and attention, you are communicating that their voice is more important than your perspective. This is crucial for leadership and all genuine relationships.
Secondly, asking questions invites them to explore their own line of thinking. If they haven’t seen it this way before, they may now consider your involvement in the process to be a gift. Third, it communicates that they are the experts on their situations, and that you are solely a partner, contributor or supporter to their process.
Finally, it does wonders for the dynamics of the working relationship because it makes it about others and not you, and isn’t that what it should be when you’re helping, listening, coaching, leading, supporting, consulting, and selling? You wouldn’t have your job without them. Film director Richard Eyre commented, “Change begins with understanding and understanding begins with identifying oneself with another person: in one word, empathy. The arts enable us to put ourselves in the minds, eyes, ears and hearts of other human beings.”
By the way, do you want to learn how to achieve extraordinary success and results as a leader? Check out my newest eBook: Unparalleled Leadership Success.