Some thoughts from our own Phil Strand, co-author of FISH! Tales and Schools of FISH!:
I recently read a newspaper column about how social scientists are trying to improve thinking. One of their findings was that many beliefs we accept as “normal or inevitable” started as decisions that were logical at the time, and continue to be accepted though the original reason no longer makes sense.
For example, the columnist observed, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so manufacturers designed a keyboard to slow them down. That’s not a problem any more, yet the letters on most computer keyboards are still arranged as they were when everyone used typewriters.
This column got me to thinking: If our well-worn beliefs (also known as paradigms) sometimes keep us from working more efficiently, they can also affect our relationships. How often do our assumptions limit our ability to really understand each other?
I think most of us listen one way to people we like and trust, and another to people we don’t. It’s hard not to, when past experiences led us to think in ways that made sense at the moment. But do those ways of thinking still make sense?
Be There means setting aside your feelings about the person, and focusing on the words they are speaking right now. Curiosity is essential. Often we don’t hear because we’re stuck in our own thoughts about the person or situation. When you’re curious, you do not assume anything. You seek to learn, and that means setting aside what you think you already know. When you are curious, you move beyond your world and into theirs. You find out more about what the person thinks, feels and values. When you listen openly, intently, the recipient of your curiosity feels acknowledged. As your relationship improves, trust increases and you communicate even better.
Of course, curiosity is key to living the other practices of The FISH! Philosophy as well. People who are willing to “play” with ideas discover new ways to do their jobs better and have fun doing it. When we choose an attitude of openness, there is less room left for negativity that flows out of the past. When we are curious about finding ways to show people we value them, we see opportunities all around us to Make Their Day.
What made sense yesterday may no longer apply. Focus on today, and you’ll discover better relationships and new possibilities. You may even type faster.