What if you could see the world through someone else’s glasses; walk in their shoes; drink their water; know their stresses; feel their joy and understand their pain? Would your own view of things change? I propose to you that it would. We often believe that what we see is what everyone else sees. We are sadly mistaken.
A hungry child walking to school may only hear the sound of his empty stomach and not the sound of opportunity. Another kid’s biggest fear may be getting to school without being bullied, not whether he can pass his math test.
The single mother who is raising 3 children and working 2 jobs has a completely different view of life than a corporate executive who just cashed in his stock options.
How can we hope to understand anything if we cannot view that thing through the eyes of those who are most affected. We can have sympathy, but not empathy. I believe sympathy says “I understand” while empathy says “I will help.”
How are we supposed to help if we don’t understand? How can we have a great marriage if we cannot see the marriage through the eyes of our spouse? Our actions will be what we believe is important to make her happy, but might miss the mark completely. If we saw the marriage through her eyes, would our actions be different? I believe they would.
What about business? If we could see the customer’s business through the customer’s eyes we would be more effective in applying resources in the right place to solve the right problem. Too often, we don’t really know the customer’s real concerns, so we apply our effort to solve what ends up to be a minor issue and we miss the major one. We just have the wrong view of things.
What about new business? If you were preparing a proposal for a significant piece of new business, would you benefit if you knew what was most important to that prospect? What if there were concerns the prospect held, but didn’t feel comfortable sharing with you? Could that keep you from getting the account? Of course. But what if you could see those concerns through the eyes of your prospect. Would your success increase? Absolutely.
I hope I’ve effectively made the case that having 20/20 vision and seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, is a powerful tool in all aspects of life. But how do you acquire this skill?
I can help with that, but first let’s understand why it’s so difficult to develop. I want you to imagine you are looking at a sporting event. Maybe a European football match (soccer for us North Americans). You see one team in red shirts and black shorts and the other team in black shirts and black shorts. There are also referees in striped shirts and black shorts.The game looks exciting and both teams seem evenly matched. Now, put a filter in front of your eyes. With this filter you do not see red. In fact, you now see red as black. How does the game look now? You’re right. There’s only one team on the field and they’re all dressed in black. However, they all seem to be fighting over the ball. It must be an inner squad game, otherwise why would only one team take the field? Do you see how your filter has changed the game?
We all have filters that distort our view of the world. The filter is built piece by piece until it’s so thick that we rarely see what is really there. How did that happen? The filter starts when we are young and we take on the views of our parents, our community and our friends. The filter may form our view of other races or people, those that don’t share our religion or it might form our view of gender or age. But I assure you, the filter is there. The frightening fact is that we get so used to seeing through the filter, that we forget it’s there. But it is seeing life through a glass darkly distorting our view and creating our perception. This perception is distorted by our ignorance, closed mindedness, prejudice and bias and creates our own subjective lens.
So how can we change? The first step is to recognize the problem. Understand that what you see is not the truth. The truth is something else.
The second step is your desire to change. Change takes time and might even be painful. As you see the world differently, you may lose friends or even alienate family. Because, as you remove your subjective lens, they may wish to keep theirs.
Third, you must start your travel by looking inward and seeing yourself. See yourself the way others see you. You, from another viewpoint.
Fourth, employ the tactic of tuning in. Life’s background noise makes it hard to hear what’s really important. Sometimes it feels like our life is a radio that is just slightly off the station. Static confuses the message. When we tune in we remove the background noise. We focus on what’s really there.
Only after tuning in to our own thoughts and perceptions can we began to tune in to the things around us. Tuning in may not require words, just hearing what is not spoken. It is understanding what is not said.
Fifth, develop true empathy. The one thing we all search for is connection. This is something I’ve talked about in many of my blogs. Why do we want to see clearly? We want to connect. Our subjective lens keeps us from connecting. It limits and distorts our view and separates us from the truth. Real empathy means not only do I understand, but I want to help.
By following these steps you will come to see the world the way it really is. And only then, can you take actions that will make a real difference.
So, what will you see when you see 20/20? A world of opportunity.