I often keynote conferences and in order to get better at my craft, I usually stay and watch the other presenters. Each presentation has a distinct style – the style of the presenter. Most of us don’t pay enough attention to how our style compares to our audience’s and therefore only meet the needs of a small group of people. If you are beginning to say, “There’s no way I can meet everybody’s needs,” you are probably right.
Life’s a game of constant stretching beyond what we thought we could previously do. And so, however adept at adapting to styles you believe you are, work at it just a little bit more. The next time you make a presentation or are having difficulty at work or at home for example, figure out what person you aren’t reaching and challenge yourself to change your approach to reach out to meet that person’s needs.
See Our Differences
I’ve discussed several models for understanding differences and practical methods for changing your own approach to meet these differences in other articles. After a while, you’ll become an unconscious competent at adapting and it won’t be the struggle it may seem initially. For now, begin by looking at differences.
How Do You See?
Everybody sees the world differently. We see people differently. We see colors differently. Do you ever wonder if you see the same thing as another person looking at the same object? . Does the color green or blue look the same to you as it does to me? This is one of those questions for a Philosophy class. It has a modern version in the popular and wonderful story of the five blind men who feel an elephant: Each of them tries to describe what they see and each of them “sees” something different — “it’s like a rope, it’s like a tree….” What you see depends on how and from where you are looking.
We rarely experience things is a definitive way.
I recently decided to live according to a principle that I heard from the Yogi Master and Guru, Amrit Desai, that has proven profoundly helpful: “Don’t believe everything you see. Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything you believe!.” All beliefs that we have are potentially false. Anything we believe is simply our perception. This belief that some might label “new age” is really very old. It reminds me of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where he talks about the difference between reality and perception. He basically said the same thing, that perception is reality. Wayne Dyer in his book, You’ll See It When You Believe It made popular the principle that we don’t believe what we see anymore, we see what we believe.
A Poignant Example
Let me give you an example. A friend of mine, who was going through a divorce told me that his wife was coming to move furniture out the next day. He was very tense, and he said to me, “Tomorrow is going to be a vicious day.” And I said “Well, if you wake up tomorrow morning and decide it is going to be a vicious day, I’ll guarantee you are going to have a vicious day. But suppose you wake up tomorrow morning and say, ‘This is going to be a good day. I’m going to make this work in spite of the fact that we’re negotiating over who gets the house and who gets the coffee table. It’s not going to be a fun day, not one of the better days in my life, but it doesn’t have to be vicious.”
He immediately said, “I never thought about it that way.” If he had gone into that day feeling it was going to be terrible, he and his wife would have fought all day long. But he now had a new option and knew he could make some changes.
When I spoke to him the next day, of course I asked him what kind of day it was. The quintessential cook, he said “My spice rack is still here!” Then he added, “It wasn’t such a bad day after all.” That’s the amazing power we have: We can control what we see. We can decide what it is we want to see.
There IS Another Way
That’s true about us as managers, as motivators as well. What do you see in yourself? What do you want to see? As a stand-up trainer, I used to feel that “live” training was just the only way. I couldn’t believe that technical training was effective when someone just used computer-based training or video training. I didn’t care how good it was. And yet I studied and used some of these things. Why? Because I realized that when I say I didn’t believe in Computer Based Training (CBT), it’s because I don’t learn that way. I really tried to be open to the fact that there are people who do. I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t imagine it. and yet there are statistics that show that there are people who learn that way!. It was hard for me who used to be the president of a training company not to say that everyone learnt my way. And it would have been very hard to make corporate decisions about this if I weren’t highly sensitive to the recognition that there are people who learn that way very effectively.