Position of Misunderstanding
By Mark Donnelly
In my continuing efforts to understand why things happen or don’t happen in the workplace, and why people act and make decisions as they do, I have found, and still finding…and always will find, that there are many reasons why things do or don’t happen, and why people do and act as they do. One key topic that always seems to keep coming up is; we put ourselves into what I call “Position of Peer Misunderstanding” (and I don’t care what some expert says about this term and if it exists, you get the drift!) derived from lack of communication and thoughtfulness. It is such an easy oversight to own if you let it into your motivation if you do not understand basic human behaviors and motivations.
By owning a Position of Peer Misunderstanding, I simply imply that this accommodates the notion that one has not gained all the facts before judgment of one is verified as most accurate in any particular circumstance. This under-sight can be very harmful and counterproductive in so many ways, particularly when information is misconstrued so a falsehood can be turned into an actuality or a bias for one’s own self-preservation.
I.e. Amanda (a junior cook) puts an extra two eggs into a cake because the customer specifically asked for it, the chef finds out and thinks Amanda did it for no reason. Then the chef raises his concern with the head chief saying that Amanda does not follow recipes and is not a team player; what actually happened here is called fundamental attribution error or correspondence bias. The chef simply did not ask Amanda “why” she put the extra eggs into the cake and assumed facts made up by his own cognitive bias. Maybe the Chef did not like Amanda or because Amanda was actually an excellent junior cook and that the chef did not like someone being a threat, particularly a female. It could also simply mean that communication amongst the team is not strong or open. As I said, there could be many reasons why Positions of Misunderstanding occur.
Anyway, without going into too much detail here, as I am working on an article called “Position of Peer Misunderstanding”, which will encapsulate some reasoning’s behind what I consider makes for workplace misunderstandings, I feel this is section out of Thirty Methods of Influence I came across a few years ago is a great read and I wanted to share it for the start of the new year.
Personally for me, point 11 stands out the most as I see this all the time, plus as I ask many questions, yes sometimes stupid ones to those who know more than I. I am not afraid to ask questions or raise topics even if it puts those in an uncomfortable position or if it may sound like a stupid question (if there is such a thing stupid question with reasonable good intention). I.e. if a person asked me; Does strawberry milk came from cows that eat strawberries? Well, to me this is not a stupid question because to someone who does not know anything about dairy farming etc, it is a plausible question…they just did not know!
It’s like the spaghetti tree hoax; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_tree_hoax “we only know what is known as a truth once we learn it as a false” MD
The main point I feel is to ensure you get all the facts and take the time to step into another’s shoes to get the full picture and all the information, (Satellite Insightfulness), because if you don’t do reasoning, then the chances are that you will finalize the occasion/assumption without all the facts.
Below will take only a few minutes to read, but well worth it.
Click here for the full thirty; http://www.einsteinsbusiness.com/SampleChapters.html
Thirty Methods of Influence—Relationships:
9. Assume the best of others.
Assuming good faith produces good fruit. By acting on the assumption others want and mean to do their best, as they see it, you can exert a powerful influence and bring out the best in them. Our efforts to classify and categorize, judge, and measure often emerge from our own insecurities and frustrations in dealing with complex, changing realities. Each person has many dimensions and potentials, some in evidence, most dormant. And they tend to respond to how we treat them and what we believe about them. Some may let us down or take advantage of our trust, considering us naive or gullible. But most will come through, simply because we believe in them. Don’t bottleneck the many for fear of a few! Whenever we assume good faith, born of good motives and inner security, we appeal to the good in others.
10. Seek first to understand.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When we’re communicating with another, we need to give full attention, to be completely present. Then we need to empathize—to see from the other’s point of view, to “walk in his moccasins” for a while. This takes courage, and patience, and inner sources of security. But until people feel that you understand them, they will not be open to your influence.
11. Reward open, honest expressions or questions.
Too often we punish honest, open expressions or questions. We upbraid, judge, belittle, embarrass. Others learn to cover up, to protect themselves, to not ask. The greatest single barrier to rich, honest communication is the tendency to criticize and judge.
12. Give an understanding response.
Using the understanding response (reflecting back feeling), three good things happen: 1) you gain increased understanding and clarity of feelings and problems; 2) you gain new courage and growth in responsible independence; and 3) you build real confidence in the relationship. This response has its greatest value when a person wants to talk about a situation laden with emotions and feelings. But this response is more attitude than technique. It will fail if you try to manipulate; it will work if you deeply want to understand.
13. If offended, take the initiative.
If someone offends you unknowingly and continues to do so, take the initiative to clear it up. Consider two tragic consequences of not taking the initiative: first, the offended one often broods about the offense until the situation is blown out of proportion; second, the offended one then behaves defensively to avoid further hurt. When taking the initiative, do it in good spirits, not in a spirit of vindication and anger. Also, describe your feelings—when and how the offense took place—rather than judging or labeling the other person. This preserves the dignity and self-respect of the other person, who then can respond and learn without feeling threatened. Our feelings, opinions, and perceptions are not facts. To act on that awareness takes thought control and fosters humility.
14. Admit your mistakes, apologize, ask for forgiveness.
When we are party to seriously strained relations, we may need to admit that we are at least partly to blame. When one is deeply hurt, he draws back, closes up, and puts us behind prison bars in his own mind. Improving our behavior alone won’t release us from this prison. Often the only way out is to admit our mistakes, apologize, and ask forgiveness, making no excuses, explanations, or defenses.
15. Let arguments fly out open windows.
Give no answer to contentious arguments or irresponsible accusations. Let such things “fly out open windows” until they spend themselves. If you try to answer or reason back, you merely gratify and ignite pent-up hostility and anger. When you go quietly about your business, the other has to struggle with the natural consequences of irresponsible expression. Don’t be drawn into any poisonous, contentious orbit, or you’ll find yourself bitten and afflicted similarly. Then the other person’s weaknesses will become your own, and all this will sow a seed bed of future misunderstandings, accusations, and wrangling. The power to let arguments fly out open windows flows out of an inward peace that frees you from the compulsive need to answer and justify. The source of this peace is living responsibly, obediently to conscience.
16. Go one on one.
An executive might be very involved and dedicated to his or her work, to church and community projects, and to many people’s lives, yet not have a deep, meaningful relationship with his or her own spouse. It takes more nobility of character, more humility, more patience, to develop such a relationship with one’s spouse than it would take to give continued dedicated service to the many. We often justify neglecting the one to take care of the many because we receive many expressions of esteem and gratitude. Yet we know that we need to set aside time and give ourselves completely to one special person. With our children, we may need to schedule one- on-one visits—a time when we can give them our full attention and listen to them without censoring, lecturing, or comparing.
17. Renew your commitment to things you have in common.
Continually renew your basic commitment to the things that unite you with your friends, family, and fellow workers. Their deepest loyalties and strongest feelings attach to these things rather than to the problems or issues around which differences often emerge. Differences are not ignored; they are subordinated. The issue or one’s point is never as important as the relationship.
18. Be influenced by them first.
We have influence with others to the degree they feel they have influence with us. As the saying goes, “I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.” When another feels you genuinely care about him and that you understand his unique problems and feelings, he also feels he has influenced you. He will then become amazingly open. We take the prescription because it is based on the diagnosis.
19. Accept the person and the situation.
The first step in changing or improving another is to accept him as he is. Nothing reinforces defensive behavior more than judgment, comparison, or rejection. A feeling of acceptance and worth frees a person from the need to defend and helps release the natural growth tendency to improve. Acceptance is not condoning a weakness or agreeing with an opinion. Rather, it is affirming the intrinsic worth of another by acknowledging that he does feel or think a particular way.