So I was watching a documentary the other day, it was about some celebrity traveling the world and researching some topic. It was interesting stuff, a legit topic, but there were several moments where this celebrity and their friends, I was thinking, “Man, they just live in a bubble, don’t they? Completely out of touch.” But then my mind started to wander (as it often does) and I started thinking more about this. Are they really out of touch? I mean, they are in touch with their own world, just not mine. Hmmmm.
I kept thinking about how this is a thought that we use all the time, frequently derogatory. “That politician is out of touch!” “That wealthy person is out of touch!” “That person from a different geographic area is out of touch!” “My boss is out of touch!” “My customers are out of touch!” Boss? Customers?! Hmmmm indeed.
I started to realize that maybe it was me that was out of touch.
It is important to realize that other people, despite what you think, they might be out of touch with your perception but they are probably not out of touch with their own. In fact, it is possible that they think you are out of touch with their concerns and goals.
This is a valuable concept for the workplace. Next time you think that your boss, your coworker, some member of that team over there, or most critically your customers, are out of touch, simply brushing it off as “they are out of touch” doesn’t solve any problems or move anything forward. The goal is to help other people, especially your customers. Here’s what you can do about it.
Step 1: Be Empathic; Look Through Their Eyes
You don’t have to agree initially with any of their thoughts, but at least take a moment and try and see where they are coming from. What information do they maybe have that you don’t? What things do you know that they don’t? What are their goals (because it might be vastly different than yours)? What are they worried about (because again, it might be vastly different than what you are worried about)? Try to legitimately think about what their answers to these questions would be.
Step 2: Communicate!
If there is information that they have that you don’t, then you need that information to be able to help them. Communicate that. Tell them you want to understand so that you can help them, but you need to know in order to be able to do that.
Alternatively, communicate your information back. This is a soft skill that takes some careful thought and practice; you don’t just want to blurt out, “None of your staff knows anything about IT!” But you can really help your customers or teammates by building and executing on plans that include training, coaching, presentations, or whiteboard sessions for you to present data or useful material.
Step 3: Be Open-Minded
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you might very well be off track. You have to be honest with yourself, listening carefully and processing your thoughts on what this other person is thinking and experiencing, and be open and willing to adjust your plans. You may not need to change your holistic views, but at least understand how changing your plans to align with your customer’s or boss’s needs might be the best approach.
Step 4: …But Be Intentional
Recognize where your personal strengths are, based upon your experience and skills. Make intentional decisions when you are going to stick to your beliefs, and devise ways to communicate this effectively. Identify where your boss’s or customer’s or teammate’s direction misaligns with yours, but it is because your direction really is the better one. Determine whether your goal is to convince the other person to change their direction (which will take perseverance, data, and influence), or instead to strategically decide to just move forward and execute anyway.
One last important recommendation; Don’t Be Mean. No matter what you think, other people still have feelings, concerns, goals, hopes, and dreams. If you can help them address all of these, then this is what makes you not only awesome at your job, but awesome at being a person.