What a great word. I love that word.
Perspective: “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” – Google
So two people see something. Even though they are seeing the same thing, they each have a very unique perspective. Not just a different physical perspective, but also mental and emotional perspective.
Let’s examine the case where a person asks a questions or gives a piece of information to someone else. This is the case that caused me to want to write this little post here.
The person has thought of the question. The question is formulated based on the information in their head, information that they know about, they can even picture things in their mind, have an emotional response to certain pieces of information. They’ve painted a mental picture surrounding this question over a certain period of time.
With all that information that the questioner has at their disposal, they seem to assume that the person/people that they ask the question of have that same exact set of information and reaction, the same mental picture, even the same emotional response. The people being asked the question are hearing the question for the first time and have not had time to paint the picture in their minds, and it definitely won’t be the same picture. The questioner assumes that the question is clear, or the reference is clear, or whatever it is. But they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Okay … try this. Put yourself in everyone else’s shoes. From where they’re sitting, how would you ask the question so that it is clear, concise, and to the point and conveys enough information so that they can deliver an answer that is useful to yourself and to them. And how much time have you put into asking the question. Would it not be prudent to allow them to take some time to formulate an answer?
Same with note taking. Don’t assume that everyone sees your perspective on a note. Include links, include definitions, write out acronyms, include enough information so that everyone has the same information, or can get to that information.
And here’s a nice quote that I brought up with someone recently.
I have a perspective on an issue, you have a perspective on the same issue, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.
Had an interesting conversation today. The content of the conversation and the person I had the conversation with is unimportant for this post. It turned out to be a good discussion, and I imagine in the near future I’m going to learn a lot about the topic discussed. But first, I had to open up.
You see, the discussion started with me going on the defensive because my position was being attacked and ridiculed. So much so that I felt that I was personally under attack. My experience is that when someone’s position is attacked, they will more then likely go on the defensive, close up, and not be able to listen to the other person’s point of view, let alone change their mind. All the person ends up doing is defending their own position because it’s under attack. The harsher the attack, the more personal it is, the more you end up defending your position instead of opening up to the possibilities and having a nice lively discussion.
We see it all the time in politics to be sure. Instead of having constructive, lively discussions on the issues, the one side goes on the attack causing the other side to go on the defensive. Nothing gets accomplished. And when it turns personal, it becomes even worse. Not only is the position attacked, but the person as well. You’re busy defending your position and yourself.
And it took me a while to realize that I had closed down. Instead of listening to what the other person had to say, I was searching for the right weapon to fend off the attack, even coming up with “facts” to support my position. But once I realized what I was doing I was able to open up, listen to what the other person had to say, request research articles that I might be able to learn more, potentially grow as a human being, learn something new, and potentially change my position.
There is not one single issue out there that I am 100% on. I have a position, and I can discuss my position. But I’m never 100% positive that I am right. I mean, how could I be. For example, if I have my numbers right, 90+% of scientists are 95+% sure that global warming and global climate change is a critical issue and is human caused. But hey, there’s still that ~5% probability that we could be wrong. Highly unlikely, but possible. The world is a big place with many complex systems interacting together to create our world. And we understand such a small part of that interconnectedness. So how could we possibly be 100%. How could I be so absolute in my positions. I try to approach discussions, debates, conversations in such a way that I will speak to and promote my position, but there is a distinct possibility that I could be wrong. And I’ll be the first to admit it.
So let’s have a lively, constructive conversation on the issues, grow in our understanding and the various perspectives, and be open to the possibilities.
The Art of Communication
Yeah, I know. There’s been plenty written on this topic over the years. I personally wish the art of communication were taught in at least high school. I wish nonviolent communication were taught in high school.
Here’s my philosophy … everyone wants to be heard. Everyone. Not just you. Not just the team lead. Not just the meeting organizer. Not just the professor. And everyone deserves the chance to be heard completely.
The key, in my opinion, to successful communication is … listening. It’s not good enough to just hear someone talking, but to hear what they have to say. It’s not fair to the talker or the listener. That’s what I mean by being heard completely. Listen, don’t interrupt. Sometimes it’s even good to say back to someone what it is you heard them say, just to verify its accuracy. That’s always good in relationship conversations. Don’t think about how you’re going to answer, or what you’re going to say in reply. Don’t even need to react to what they’re saying. Just listen to them, hear them, and try to understand them.
There are some who love to hear themselves talk. They just talk and talk and talk. They interrupt. They don’t let people finish what they have to say. And they make it difficult for people to get a word in edgewise. They make it really difficult for others to be heard, let alone be heard completely. This is unfortunate, whether in a classroom or a meeting room. Hey dude, it’s not all about you.
In an academic environment, yes, there is a teacher, or professor, or TA, who’s job it is to teach. But there are students who want to learn, they want to ask and answer questions, they want to express opinions, they want to convey ideas and thoughts. Just think how rich the conversation would be if everyone had a chance to be heard.
Meetings are my big frustration. Meetings are between 2 or more people. Not just one person. More then likely, everyone in that meeting is very busy, has a lot to do, a lot on their plate. I know I do. And I know that I want to get that meeting over with in as efficient a way as possible so that I can get back to work.
I will be the first to admit that I am not the best at meetings. I am easily distracted and sometimes end up pulling others into my distraction … SQUIRREL. And I promise that I will work really hard at that.
For project meetings, I am very interested in finishing the meetings as quickly as possible, not to take up everyone else’s time, and even try to finish up early. I promise that I will not discuss things in meetings that not everyone needs to be a part of. Not everyone needs to discuss every aspect of every part of the project. So if just 2 or 3 people out of 10 need to discuss something, they can take it offline and discuss it where they aren’t wasting everyone else’s time.
In a recent meeting there were quite a few questions asked during the meeting. I personally felt that just asking those questions was good enough for the meeting. Jot down the question, make sure you know who needs to participate in the discussion and answering of the question, and move on. No need to discuss the actual questions in the meeting. That’s definitely not the case in every meeting or for every question. It was just that in this meeting, which usually lasts a little over an hour on a good day, the questions were being asked, and then discussed and answered by just the 2 people who needed to participate in the discussion. The others in the meeting, including me, just did something else, like actually getting word done for the project.
So here’s my check list.
- Talk only when it’s your turn to talk. Don’t hog the entire conversation.
- Let other’s talk, be heard, and be heard completely. Don’t interrupt them. Don’t even do the “Mmhmm” thing, while they’re talking. Let them finish. Focus on what they’re saying, not on how you’re going to respond. Even if you disagree with them 100%.
- Only talk about what is relevant. Don’t talk about what you’re doing for another project that is unrelated to this project or class.
- Only talk about what the entire group needs to talk about. Take smaller conversations offline and include only those people that need to be included.
- Just because a question is asked, doesn’t mean it needs to be discussed or answered in the meeting. Again, take it offline and include only those people that need to be included.
- And the very most important point … listen. Hear completely what someone has to say.
Oh, one other thing, and something else that I’m going to work really hard at. Pay attention. Even if you have to pretend that you are paying attention. Don’t work on something else, don’t check email, don’t have your nose buried in your iPad, and take off those Google Glasses. I’ve heard people say that they are hearing what is being said while they’re working on something else … but I don’t believe it. Maybe it’s because I can’t do that. Look up, pay attention, and participate fully.