Recently a friend of mine who runs a retail business asked me to look over an email exchange that he had with one of his suppliers. My friend had produced a marketing campaign that the supplier felt was an attack on his products. My friend wanted me to analyze the interaction and tell him what was wrong with the supplier.
What was interesting is that when I read the correspondence it was clear that my friend and the supplier each had a different point of view and was defending it without acknowledging any validity to the viewpoint of the other. And each of them had a valid viewpoint.
So, who was right and who was wrong? The answer is both were right and both were wrong. Both were right about the point of view they were defending, but both were wrong that theirs was the only legitimate point of view.
Each of us perceives the world differently, because of differing perceptual styles, and also because of differing circumstances, goals, aspirations, ages, lifestyles, etc.
Differing perception creates different realities, each of which represents only part of the whole picture. Since we only have access to what we perceive, we tend to defend our perception as the “truth”. The way we see it is “right” and the way others see it is “wrong”.
It is from this defense of our portion of the picture and our inability to “see” what others see that miscommunication and conflict arise. Effective leaders are aware of this inability within themselves and others and work to understand and integrate different viewpoints before taking action.
Attempts to explain your view to someone else so that they will see the “correct” view rarely, if ever, leads to positive outcomes. Accepting that different views represent different aspects of the truth and all contribute to a complete understanding is the way out of such unsolvable conflicts.
Think back to a recent disagreement you had.
- Who were they with, and do you often have disagreements with that person?
- As you think back, what are the major points of disagreement?
- Now that you are out of the heat of the moment, can you find validity in the way that other person says things?
- Can you see how they might not have been able to understand your point of view?
Stretching your understanding of different points of view is key to improving communication and limiting conflict with others, and a critical aspect of leadership.
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