In high school one day, I remember being in the cafeteria, and having to choose between 2 tables of friends - but I didn’t want to choose. I was the kind of girl in high school who had friends of all kinds - the popular kids, the unpopular kids, the smart kids, the party kids, the athletic and nonathletic, the ones with faith and the ones without and the ones unsure, and I loved all of them. So I remember that day I think I ate part of my lunch at one table and part of my lunch at the other table, and then I put my seat in between them so I could talk to both. I didn’t want to miss out, but really when I look back -
I didn’t want to choose a side, I wanted to build a bridge.
I wanted them to see that the gold was found when they stepped outside of their “groups” to see each other.
That there was so much that they could learn from each other because of their differences if they could hear each other.
And that knowing each other (those really different from us) could give them more joy and fulfillment in life.
Of course, at the time I didn’t have the words for that, but as I look back I see that that would have been my “ideal”.
And now, as my life and work have led me to a process where I get to see, hear and know leaders, teams, potential customers and just people - I see the importance of the “seat in the middle” - and I want to challenge you to take a seat in the middle with me.
What does this look like?
Trading in our foggy glasses for clear ones - have you ever had glasses or sunglasses that desperately needed to be cleaned and you didn’t have anything to clean them with? You know that feeling - its foggy - like there’s this glaze over them and it’s incredibly annoying and detrimental in some circumstances.
In the same way, when we carry around assumptions, judgements, or preconceived notions about a particular person or group - this can distort our vision! It can block us from seeing each other clearly. We all have the opportunity to lay down our foggy glasses and pick up clear ones, and I would like to invite you to join me in this - everyone can participate. Everyone is capable of laying down these things - (assumptions, judgements, preconceived notions).
As you're reading this, can you think of a situation or a particular person where this has taken place and impacted how you respond? It might even be your judgements or assumptions about yourself. Watch out for foggy glasses as you move through your week - as you clean your glasses, your lens becomes clear - this is where we find the “gold” - the unexpected treasure of seeing people and who each of them has been created to be (including ourselves).
Tune our hearing - have you or anyone you know adjusted to hearing aids? You might have watched someone try to tune theirs and adjust it to loud spaces, and they wince in pain because everything sounds SO LOUD. The frequency isn’t right - much like an instrument that’s off key - it hurts your ears. When it’s tuned - it’s a beautiful sound. So it turns out - it’s all in the tuning process (translation which is hearing) that we find clarity.
In the same way, when we start asking questions without judgements, assumptions or preconceived notions - we really HEAR “in tune” for the first time. Have you ever not really paid attention to what someone was saying and then all of the sudden had a moment where you realized it? (I have) - or realized that your own fear or self consciousness or anger got in the way of really hearing someone? We all have the opportunity to ask questions just for the sake of knowing others, and laying down any defenses that we might have to simply listen. Life becomes much easier and more enjoyable - and we even get the benefit of learning from each other, what a gift!
Learning vs. Knowing - it’s like the process of becoming a professional, you study in college/grad school a profession, and you learn about what it’s like, but then you enter into the real world, and you really KNOW what it’s like (the good the bad the ugly). Before that, you could only imagine what it would be like from the the view of a textbook. The knowing comes from real world encounters and experience. It’s here that you learn the unspoken rules, absorb important people dynamics, take in the nuance of a particular workplace culture and figure out ways to overcome challenges. All of this creates opportunity for appreciation and respect for the industry, career and ourselves.
When we hear of a person or know of them, we only know them maybe for what they’re known for or as - but when we experience that person, have repeated conversations with them - we get to KNOW them. And when we KNOW each other, we can enjoy each other. In the book, I talk about the fact that we can change each other, or we can seek to know each other - always go with knowing. Because when we learn about each other, we’ll have a greater understanding of why we do the things we do, and if we peel back a couple layers, chances are in most cases, our intentions are good. We can trade in trying to change for knowing and appreciating differences instead. That lets them be them, and you be you. And somewhere in the middle, where we get to know each other, is where collaboration, innovation, and appreciation happens. This changes communities, businesses and lives.
The wonderful thing about this concept of seeing, hearing and knowing others - is that no one is excluded - this is possible and attainable for ALL. I want to challenge you to be bridge builders in your community - your seat is in the middle. Seek to see, know and hear the people around you, and watch as your life and business are transformed.