“As iron sharpens iron, so (wo)man sharpens (wo)man”

I have always been amazed when sitting in on a conversation or in a meeting how everyone walks away with their own interpretation of what was said and draws their own conclusions. We all have different motivations for the things that we do. We are, in essence, a summary of all our learning and experiences.

For example: I show appreciation with words. When I think someone has done a good job or has handled a situation brilliantly, I tell them. People have reacted to this in different ways. Some are honoured and say thank you. Others have felt that I am trying to manipulate them, or that I am pouring sugary syrup on them. False Flattery – as simple as that!

I used to have a boss who felt this way. I’m not exaggerating when I say there was a lot of friction between us. We both tried in our own way to reach out and ‘fix’ it. Often, I found little chocolates waiting for me on my keyboard, in a drawer or perched in some ‘cute’ fashion on my desk. I knew my boss had put them there. It made me angry. I thought what a cheap ploy to try to make up for how’s he’s been treating me! What a nerve!

One day it dawned on me that while I show appreciation with my words, sometimes even carefully coming up with examples to illustrate how impressed I am, my boss showed appreciation with little gifts. With this startling revelation in my toolbox now, I began to appreciate my boss with chocolates – a way that he undersood appreciation. The result? A dramatically improved working relationship and environment were created. A new fascination for diversity and different view points began to grow within me.

We all want to be understood. And we all want to understand. Instead of bringing us together these needs often tear us apart. We all remember the story of the blind men and the elephant. One man touches the leg and says to himself, “An elephant is like a pillar.” Another touches his tail and declares, “An elephant is like a rope.” Yet another touches his ear and concludes, “An elephant is like a fan.” This creates warring among them as they sit down to discuss it. Little do they know that they are all right.

Imagine if the blind men listen to each other. All hold a portion of the truth and listening to each other would help them build a bigger picture of the truth. Imagine how employing this concept can build a bigger, happier outcome for all of us, whether at work or within our family and close circle of friends. It makes all the difference between ‘warring’ and ‘building community.’

When’s the last time you sought to be understood or wanted to understand where someone else was coming from? Do you think diversity is problematic or believe that it can actually be a platform from which greater truths and lessons can be gleaned?

We have been given two ears and one mouth. Shouldn’t we use them in proportion to each other?