This morning I could not find the lid to my blender. I couldn’t very well make smoothies without the lid, because the liquid would splatter all over the place.
My daughter has the job of putting away dishes after they have been washed. I figured that she must have put the lid someplace, and went to ask her where it was.
“On the shelf where it always goes,” she replied. I went back to the kitchen and looked again. I sure didn't see a lid.
So I went back to my daughter’s room. “Will you please come and think just like you do, and show me how to find the blender lid?”
She’s used to how I word things, and understood. What I meant was this: I have looked twice for the lid, in the place you told me it should be, and I don’t see it. So what I need is for someone who thinks like YOU think, to show me how to find it.
Sure enough, she came, and the lid was right on the shelf where she said it would be - but it was resting on its side, and partially covered by another object. I simply hadn’t seen it.
Why would I take 7 paragraphs to describe this silly event in our home?
We find that often our communication problems follow this pattern. One person is concerned about something, and asks another for their suggestions, ideas, or input. But often, even if that person tries to use that input, he still won’t be able to see clearly. He will still be shaking his head, trying to figure out why he can’t just “get it.”
You'll notice that I didn't actually tell my daughter to come find the lid. I asked her to think like she does, and to show me how to see the lid. That's actually a very important distinction to make. Subtly, we are saying that we want to understand the other person, not that we want them to simply solve the problem for us. So we are using words in a way that invites them to understand that we value the relationship, and their part in it.
We have to ask the other person to show us how to think like they think!
I don’t think like my daughter. I would have put the lid of the blender flat on the shelf. So when I was looking for it, I was looking for the “flat” lid. My daughter, however, was not locked into that expectation, and saw it immediately.
Think of it this way:
To discover what the other person thinks.
To see what they see.
To find out why they see that way.
We can use this principle when: