Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Do we live in separate universes?

I never cease to be amazed at the difference in perspective that two people can hold - its almost as if we live in completely separate universes. Its happened to me twice this week - I am talking to a coaching client about their take on the world and separately talking to their boss about how they see things. Apart from the odd coincidence of facts - dates, places, people - the interpretation of events is completely different, and equally compelling. This makes finding the ground of coaching extremely difficult and I find myself working to find out where views coincide enough so the work can begin.

This is particularly the case when the coaching assignment is around the behaviours of the individual and too often the debate becomes a clash of perspectives. One man's assertiveness is another man's aggression. One woman's planning is another woman's over controlling. This gets particularly tricky when both parties claim the 'truth' of the situation as their own perspective and it is easy to get drawn in believing one party over another.

A productive way out of this I've found is to focus on impact rather than intent. I've rarely met anyone who intends to show up badly at work, and will defend tooth and nail the positive intent behind their actions - " I was only trying to get him to hear all the facts". Shifting the ground to the impact they have on others - "I can see how I spoke upset him" -  and the perceptions they create is often more fertile and less defended ground.

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