One interpersonal skill you probably won’t find in any textbook or self-help book is a skill that is sadly lacking in the world today.
Without it, there is misunderstanding and conflict. With it, there is harmony and compassion.
I’m sure at some time in your life, probably when you were a child, you tried on someone else’s spectacles. Boy, did you get a shock! You couldn’t believe how useless another person’s specs were for you. In fact, they didn’t help you see any better. Instead they made things worse for you. That’s because the lenses in eyes are all different. Specs that are just right for one person are therefore of no use to someone else.
That doesn’t apply to the physical lenses of our eyes only. It also applies to the lenses through which each of us views life.
In the same way that we all need different specs for our physical eyes, we also all look at life through different “lenses”. And each of us has had these particular lenses shaped by the things that have happened to us in life, whether for good or bad. That’s why, when something happens, we all experience it differently. Some people are stressed, some are excited, some are challenged and some are quite indifferent. It all depends on our lenses.
Because of the “lens factor”, there is no one reality which everybody experiences. If there are 100 people in a room, there are 100 versions of reality.
So what is this most amazing interpersonal skill, then?
It’s the ability to see things through other people’s lenses. Don’t underestimate this skill. It’s a very difficult one to acquire. One of the most difficult skills for any human being to develop is the ability to see themselves through the lenses of other people. We see ourselves through our own lenses and therefore see what we want to see, not what others can see.
When you learn this skill, you develop the ability to see more of the reality others are seeing, and that helps you to understand why they do what they do and what would be helpful for you to do to respond in the best way possible.
Imagine how many wars might not have been prevented, how many conflicts could have been avoided if only people had been able to see the world through another person’s lenses. Imagine how much influence could have been built in people’s lives as they began to feel understood.
By suggesting that you start to see things through the lenses of other people, I am not referring to a superficial attempt to see another person’s point of view. That will only result in your seeing a few of their points – but still through your own lenses and not theirs.
When you start to genuinely see things through other people’s lenses, you start to change. You become a lot more accepting of other people and their views. You start becoming less judgemental and intolerant, and you become focused on finding solutions that are meaningful to them.
This is another quality of greatness. Because greatness is selfless, it is more concerned about others than about itself. And people sense this, which in turn causes them to be a lot more accepting back and even trusting of you. When they sense that you “get“ them and that you see what they’re seeing, they stop being so aggressive as the need to fight is reduced.
Of course, by seeing things through other people’s lenses, I am not suggesting that their view of reality is necessarily valid. It might, in fact, be completely wrong. BUT, if you can see things through their lenses, you will be better able to alert them to the fact that their view might not be quite as valid as they think it is.
As I mentioned, acquiring this skill is not easy at all and requires lots of discipline, courage and practice. Don’t think you can try it a few times and you’ll have it. It could take months or even years to develop this skill.
The important point is that now that you know about this skill, you can at least aim at trying to acquire it. I encourage you to do so. You will be surprised at the results!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net. In 2018, Alan was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the "Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter". For the past 18 years, HR Future has, through high quality content presented in print and digital formats as well as live training, helped Executives and People Managers prepare for the Future of Work by giving them the knowledge and insights they need to lead their people into a better reality.