With summer officially underway, my schedule outside of work is about to get a lot busier in a lot of really great ways. I’m fortunate to have just been on a vacation, my kids are on their summer break, and the beautiful weather makes it tough to stay indoors. This time of year always has me extra motivated to try new things, see new places, and find new adventures. To me, summertime is about having new experiences and making new memories with friends and family. What’s not to love about that!?
Aside from all the fun we’ll have, I’m excited for the new places and experiences because they help refresh my perspective. I like to be proactive in finding opportunities to see and think about the world differently, which usually requires me breaking away from my normal routine. This is something I encourage my kids to do as well, even though it can be tough pulling them away from their favorite go-to activities. With so much happening around us, both globally and locally, there’s a lot to be gained by stepping outside of our normal daily groove.
In addition to the new places and things, I’m challenging myself to expand my perspective in another way as well – through people. With all the group outings and special events, I’ll be meeting new people, making new friends, and spending more time with extended family. Just like the new places and experiences, these interactions are valuable opportunities to refresh my perspective as well.
Now, I’ll be the first to point out there’s a difference between new experiences and new people. With new experiences, I have a lot more control of what’s happening. I choose the place and time. I choose the type and level of involvement. Whereas with people, it’s a bit more of an unpredictable mystery bag. Especially considering how emotionally charged we can get when polarizing topics are brought up.
So, one thing I’m focused on is going beyond peoples’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to understand how they arrived at their point of view. What have they seen, done, or experienced that shaped their perspective? How did they arrive at their conclusions? By taking this approach, we’re showing respect and appreciation for diversity of thought. We’re validating each other rather than butting heads, and we’re allowing room for constructive dialogue rather than jumping into a debate.
These situations can be opportunities to shift our own perspectives, consider alternative points of view, and break our routine of how we see and think about the world. All of which are drivers of personal growth and development. More often than not, whether it’s later that day or sometime down the road, I realize that I’m better off by listening to understand rather than trying to convince. It’s a chance to step outside myself, learn something new, and expand my own way of thinking.
If you’re up for it, I encourage you to join me in my summer intention – listening to others. I don’t just mean hearing and tolerating. I mean actively listening with the goal of understanding perspectives that are different than our own. Of course, it’s easier said than done. So, when you find yourself in one of these situations, try statements like – “I’m interested in hearing more about your experience with that.” Or, “I hadn’t thought about it that way, can you elaborate a bit?”
This approach will benefit our businesses as well. Whether it’s developing products and services or customer personas and journey mapping, those next-level insights are incredibly valuable. As we get to know our customers and prospects, it’s important to look beyond what they’re doing, saying, or thinking. Digging beneath those surface-level details to understand the underlying motivators and drivers will offer a more detailed picture of who they are and how we can best serve them.
My true belief is that we’re all a lot more similar than we are different. We all want to be happy, healthy, and productive in our daily lives. While our tactics and opinions on how to make that happen may not align, our end goals and desired outcomes are pretty much the same. By searching for and focusing on those similarities, I think we’ll find a surprising amount of common ground and grow as individuals in the process.