Interaction & Collaboration
My Thoughts About Interaction With A Goal of Collaboration
In London, "mind the gap" is advice for riders of the London Underground or their subway, also know as "the tubes", to pay attention to the the space between the train platform and the train car in the station so as to avoid injury.
"Mind the gap" could take another meaning when interacting with others; to be mindful of the "space" between individuals--especially the space within which we exchange our thoughts. By "minding the gap" in a conversation, we can decrease our emotional expense--the emotional energy we spend when interacting with others.
What follows is a collection of my thoughts about interacting with others that I've uncovered over the years.
The Fact Factory
"Let me tell you exactly who and what I am..."
With regards to the art of interacting with others, the thought of laying out ones identity as a seemingly well-organized list of absolute and hard-fixed facts is cold and doesn’t suggest flexibility of character. Instead, it suggests rigidness and inflexibility and seems to leave little opportunity for others to negotiate or, especially, to collaborate.
Let your response to others be a request for them to expand on their thoughts before you provide your thoughts or opinions. In fact, it’s not necessary to respond to each and every statement that others make.
The True or False Test
"You're wrong about that..."
In a discussion, using a true-or-false approach is cold and absolute and isn't welcoming to the other person’s views and opinions.
Be introspective during interactions and be self-aware of the motives you might have or the message you might deliver by responding in one way or another or in one tone of voice or another.
The Framing Shop
"I've told you the same thing a million times..."
Diversify; have a selection of "frames" in your repertoire. Using the same method of delivery for all topics is unimaginative. Frameing your response to different situations with the air of being, for example, a visionary or a revolutionary or a nurturer can result in others thinking that they can anticipate your response. As a result, they might change how they interact with you, even to the point of avoiding conversation with you altogether.
Consider changing frames to mix things up. It might be, for example, that birthday parties are thought of as always being happy, joyous family gatherings but sometimes consider a different setting. Maybe a private, more intimate couple-event would give the other(s) a new appreciation for the event. Change develops character.
Packaging Sells The Product
Similar to framing, packaging can make a difference in how a statement is received. Using too much hyperbole or drama can distract from or even derail your point. Let your main message be simple and brief so the full effect can be quickly delivered.
Learn first. An interview is more a series of questions (received) rather than an instructive and corrective exchange (sent). As Covey says, “seek first to understand and then to be understood”.
An immediate, reactive response to statements from others only serves as an attempt to micro-manage or maybe even hijack the conversation. Ask for clarification, if for no other reason than to give yourself a chance to compose your thoughts.
An essay is an extended and introspective collection of thoughts. In your response to a question from someone, was an essay requested? Do you enjoy having others present their essay to you...endlessly? Interact; Give others a chance to express themselves, to share their thoughts or even to change the topic. Until it's clearly your turn to speak, interrupt as little as possible and then only to seek clarification. Also, not every statement from others needs a response or, especially, to be corrected or adjusted by you.
The Job Description
We all can be both givers and getters. As such, to some degree we’re all always giving and we’re all always getting but how do the expectations of the two roles align? Is the giver giving what the getter wants and expects or is there an imbalance?
Offered “help” may not be welcome and therefore not actually be “help”. It might be that the desired or appropriate help is not what has been offered. Communicate. Interact. Be open to adjustment. Be sensitive to each other’s input and opinion in BOTH directions.
Try going unconditional; leave the “but…” out. Not all interactions need to be a negotiation. Try replying with “Yes” or “Okay” instead of “Yes, but...” because the “but…” can be directly translated to “… but you should really do it my way”.
Butting out totaly—staying entirely out of the business of others—is usually a good thing, too. It gives others a chance to learn for themselves, possibly over time. As a result, they’ll build a foundation of their own and have better confidence in themselves but still knowing that you're there to help if and when your help is needed.
When difficult situations appear on the horizon for others, take the high road by allowing the waves to crash far below you.
Start out with the thought that the situation is or might, in fact, be fine and that it might be only your premonition that makes it seem ominous. Give yourself time to learn more about the situation and especially about your own feelings. Don’t develop the habit of immediately delivering based on your gut reaction. Gut reactions can be inaccurate and only fuel the fire of what might, on the surface, seem to be a disagreement.
Are you still doing what you’ve always done and still getting what you’ve always gotten? That’s good if you’re getting the results you hope for and want. Otherwise, change it up—change the script.
We each play individual parts on the stage of life and we each can choose how we handle each and every situation. We can’t control others and we can't change their script. I can only change how I participate—how I react—how I lead.
If we make adjustments and make changes to the way we interact we might affect how others choose to interact. In return they might change their own script.
What Don't You Know?
Do you have extra sensory perception? Can you read the thoughts of other people?
Each of us can only go so far when interacting with others. If you don't know what you don't know, be open and ask questions. At least share the awareness with others that you're unclear or uncertain and hope they can help fill the voids.
Openness, Transparency and Confidence
Be open in both giving and in getting. Accept that what others tell you might not be what you expected or that it might be framed or packaged differently so their words don't accurately deliver the intended message.
Be transparent; reflect by repeating the possibly misunderstood statement and ask to hear more. It might be that the stated fact was not a fact at all but was just a poorly packaged opinion.
Get To Know "Norm"
What's your "norm"? How often do you feel that others, any others, aren't the "norm" that you know; that they're "out of bounds" in some way? Can you reconcile your norm with the norm of others or do you feel that others simply don't see things the way you do and they'll need to adjust?
Any one of us might unknowingly present ourselves as though we are the guiding light and that others, we feel, are a bit off-the-beam. It's likely that others may have similar feelings about us or may not even see an issue.
Be flexible; begin by giving others some leeway. Be open and accepting of change.
Is This A Mountain Worth Dying On?
When disagreeing, be mindful, pause, and choose your battles. You can't expect for every disagreement to go your way just as you can't expect to loose every disagreement. But when it comes to "settling up", look for a win-win outcome.
I hope you've enjoyed my inspirational thoughts. They're actually reflections on my own experience—lessons that I've learned on my own, the hard way. Sharing them here has helped me to clarify them for myself.
Please feel free to leave a thought of your own. Thank you for your time.