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That’s One Way to Think about It

Courtney Lynch, August 19, 2019

Being Open to Other Points of View

Effective leaders need to maintain an openness to things that they don’t know or aren’t aware of, especially during times of challenge, change and trial.

It’s easy to accept that it’s impossible for any of us to know everything about someone or something.  In theory, we recognize that perfect knowledge and awareness is unattainable.  Yet, in times of conflict, our behaviors often indicate a less-than-best acceptance of our inability for total understanding.  Instead of acknowledging what we don’t know or being open to examining the different thoughts, theories, ideas and perspectives of others, we often seek to prove how much we know or how our viewpoint is superior.

Reflect on a recent conflict with a family member, colleague or friend.  As your recall the circumstances, examine how much of your thoughts about the matter could have:

  • Centered on your “rightness”
  • Sharpened your position
  • Focused on the hurt, anger or frustration you felt

Now consider how much time you’ve spent on seeking to understand the other person’s viewpoint – why they might be responding as they have or demonstrating certain emotions.  

Often, the more significant the conflict, the more we become captivated by  our side of the story versus practicing openness to seeing the circumstances from other viewpoints.   When our ratio of time spent proving our point versus being open to the points of others is lopsided in the favor of self-confirmation, we limit our ability to influence outcomes and inspire others.

The next time you sense conflict or disagreement with someone else, don’t avoid it or get blinded by the will to win.  Instead, recognize that conflict presents an opportunity to gather more viewpoints. It’s something to be encouraged and when experienced well (meaning you demonstrate accountability and respect when engaging) increases your leadership learning and performance.

Remind yourself: there are many ways to think about challenge.  You hold one of them.  Be open to learning what others hold, too.

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