‘Mistakes are made, but not by me’ – a book by Elliot Aronson & Carol Travis changed my perspective a few years ago. At that time, I was not a keen reader. When my boss handed over this book to me with the instruction to read a particular chapter, I dutifully read only that chapter. But it changed my perception for life!
When we have a disagreement with someone, do we ever try to understand the other person’s view? No, we actually don’t. We are so busy trying to prove that we are right that we never bother to find out what goes inside the other person. If we do, we might be able to find logic in the other person’s behavior and may also realize at times, that it is we ourselves who are at fault and that can be an aid in managing the disagreement and bring out an agreeable solution and improve relationship. This book taught me exactly that – to try to put myself in the other person’s shoe and understand why they are saying what they are saying.
Let me tell you a story which will explain this – One of the bosses where I was working for almost 5 years, was going on a vacation. Before going, he instructed one of his Managers, who had just joined 6 months ago, to handle a particular problem. He also told me, as the HR Head, to look into the problem just before he went away. I called on the Manager to check if he was on the job and he assured me that he was. Thinking that a Manager will be responsible about his work and that there was no need for another senior person to intervene, I left it at that. When the boss returned from his vacation and found that the job had not been done properly, he shouted at me saying he had relied on me for this work and had gone off on his vacation without a worry. I felt upset when he shouted at me – thinking, after all the job was given to a Manager and I was only asked to look into it – so why am I being made responsible for the failure when it should have been the Manager who should have been the one for the boss to shout on. But then, I tried to look at the problem from his point of view, as I had started doing since reading the book. I realized that my boss relied more on me than the Manager as I have been in the company for longer. Hence he was more upset with me than he was with his Manager. Once I realized this, I went to him and apologized and assured him that henceforth this will not happen.
My first reaction of being upset is common – this is what we all do when the person on the other side shouts on us and we think it is unjust. But when I thought of the whole situation from his point of view, I realized where I was at fault and this helped me manage the situation better and also did not hamper my relation with my boss. This is not an isolated situation; there have been several others as well where I may not have been at fault, but understanding the other person’s reason has helped me in resolving disagreements more amicably.
When you have a disagreement with someone, not only your relationship with the other person is disturbed, you also have a negative feeling which lingers with you for a long time and affects your work life. Thinking about the problem from the other person’s point of view not only often helps resolve the disagreement sooner but also removes the negative feeling making your day happier.
One of the participants of my training session said to me, “How can I try to think from the other person’s point of view when I am busy being shouted at?” What he said may sound funny but it is actually true. When someone senior shouts at you, it is normal that our brain stops thinking and is puzzled for a while. But, even if we think about the other person’s point of view a little later, that may also prove to be helpful.
Of course, all situations may not be same. There can be situations where, even after putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes, we might still not be able to resolve the disagreement. But it does no harm in trying. At least there will be some disagreements which can be more amicably resolved and bring happiness to us.