I’m fascinated by social media. I know some of my social media connections personally, which is to say I had a personal relationship with them before we began using social media to keep up with each other. Frankly, I like the convenience and the richness of information we can share.
I’ve even used internet meeting sites to explore potential persons of interest I might like to know better. I joined meetup.com to check out groups in my area with whom I might have a common interest and want to meet personally.
My point is that social media and internet meet ups are tools. The real deal is meeting face to face to get to know someone at a deeper level. That simply cannot happen otherwise.
The dynamics of human interaction don’t transmit effectively through electronic channels. The real electricity is when eyes meet and when others enter your personal space–and you enter theirs. Only in this space can the magic of interpersonal communication happen.
Even Skype, facetime, and go to meeting can not duplicate the magic of being close enough to touch and engage the full range of senses available during an interpersonal conversation. There is even rich meaning in the silent spaces.
The way to reach out and touch is to meet someone in their space, on their turf, on their terms. Talk at the heart and soul levels that require more than words: tone of voice, skin tone, eye contact, body language, muscle reflex, and breathing rate–all the stuff you miss at a distance.
There is nothing in cyberspace that can replace the power of personal space–the space where you can
Perspective is your physical relationship to information. You cannot have multiple perspectives by sitting in the comfort of your office, or your home, or in the company of your closest friends and ruminating about the world out there. You must go out there and get in the middle of the action.
Perspective is vantage point
The vantage point from which you experience a situation is your perspective. If you are a new employee in a large company, you cannot have the same vantage point as the CEO or even your immediate supervisor because you are not in their position.
The converse also is true. Just because you were once a new employee does not mean you fully understand what it’s like to be a new employee now. Your experience once upon a time is not exactly the same as that experience today.
Perspectives are experienced
You cannot have the perspective of what it’s like to be a person of color living in a white dominated society if you are not a person of color, and vice versa.
You cannot understand the terror of being told you have cancer unless you have experienced that conversation.
If you are financially secure, you cannot understand the gut-wrenching feeling of knowing you have a mortgage or a rent to pay and you have just lost your job and have no savings.
You cannot understand the world of affluence and high society if you do not have the wealth that gives you access to it.
You cannot understand what it’s like to be me because you are not me. And vice versa.
You don’t understand
A friend told me, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be a teacher these days.” They were right. I had never experienced it, so I became a substitute teacher to get a different perspective. It wasn’t the same as, but it helped.
The point is, you cannot have a perspective that you have not experienced. So before you say, “I understand what it’s like,” stop and consider how your experiences compare.
Sympathy is lip service; empathy is a shared experience.
Get up close and personal
I cannot be a person of color, but I can befriend people of color and hang out with them in their places. I can become friends with their friends and try to understand as closely as possible their circumstances.
The television series Undercover Boss showed the mismatch of perspectives and mutual understanding by placing the boss in the employee’s daily environment. The results were amusing and eye opening.
A CEO client once told me how he stayed close to his employees by walking through his plant every day. The problem was, he didn’t spend any time with any one person. Consequently, his employees perceived him as too busy to stop and understand what was going on. I wonder if it would have been more effective to spend an hour a day in one work area interacting more personally with the workers who spent full-time there? And what if he brought one employee a week to shadow him for a couple of days as CEO? Perhaps they would take a different story back to their co-workers from the experience.
I’m not high on critics, because most critics sit in judgement of things they have not done themselves.
I recommend opening yourself to as many experiences as possible. Expand the borders of your comfort world by experiencing, as much as you can, the world in which others live every day.
Enlarge you perspective, and you will be more
If you are listening with your heart, you can hear truth in hurt feelings and anger. The one thing you should not say is, “You shouldn’t feel that way.”
Feelings are always sincere
Feelings are raw and uncensored. They cannot escape notice by the those with a heart for listening. Regardless of the words, feelings seep out through the eyes, facial expression, muscle tension, posture, voice inflection, and tone of voice.
Feelings rise from our most primitive selves. They manifest before a word comes to mind to describe them. They are truth no matter what someone says to disguise them or to dismiss them.
Listen from the heart. Empathize.
Feelings are not supposed to be rational
Thinking is the first step toward insincerity and deceit. We always spin the story in our own best interests to appear strong, right, in control.
But in our heart we know otherwise. Attempts to explain away our feelings are inherently dishonest and unhealthy. What we feel in our gut is honest, and this is true for everyone without exception.
We should never have to apologize for our feelings. Sometimes we don’t even know the words to express what we feel. That’s OK. When we communicate heart to heart we rise above words to delve into the depths of communicating soulfully.
Listen to those who are speaking without words. With practice you will understand.
And then you will know what to say.
When you learn to listen with your heart,
you will be more
I am always right in my own mind, and it must be so. You are the same way. And so is everyone else.
Here’s why I’m right
We are made that way. Each and every living thing seeks to survive. We possess life. I have a life–my life. It know it as me. I spend a lot of time making sure I’m OK. So do you.
One of the things I have to be OK with is the me that I am – my identity. OK=RIGHT.
It’s important to be OK with myself. To be right. And when I’m not OK, it’s NOT OK. OK?
Emotional safety mechanism takes over
Internal conflict is NOT OK. So, my built in self-correcting mechanism seeks to find a way for me to be OK within myself. My beliefs represent the pattern of the world that makes sense to me so that I’m OK.
When anyone challenges my beliefs, they upset my world, and that’s NOT OK. It’s an attack on my identity–me.
To be INPowered2 LEAD, I have to grasp the power of this fundamental truth.
To be OK. Listen to others explain their lives.
Listen to this Spirit of Leading podcast I posted last year. Listen to Lead podcast.
My prescription is for more intense listening and seeking to understand and respect each and every individual for who they are at the moment. Because in their mind they are right and right on.
Listen and be