A natural tendency of human behavior is that we tend to see things and people from our perspective. How often do we test that perspective and compare it to reality? When it comes to people, how often do we put them in a box?
What I mean by putting people in a box is slapping a label, stereotype, or judgment on people when they do not show up as we would. When someone behaves in ways that are different from how we would behave, we define them and their behavior, and generally in ways that have more to do with our perspective than reality. Once we label someone, it can be very difficult for us to see him or her as he or she actually is. It can be impossible for them to get out of the box we put them in as long we continue to see their differences from our perspective. How does this impact working on a team, engaging a customer, being a leader, or just trying to elevate our success? It can:
- limit our opportunities, progress and creativity by collaborating only with those who we feel are most like us,
- impede relationships and communication in many instances, and
- stymie the success of a department and an organization.
As a leader, how can you truly see someone’s full potential when you define him or her in a limited way? As a sales person, what does this do to your ability to create a win-win scenario with your customers? How does this dynamic impact any relationship that we want to be successful?
A coaching client once shared with me his frustration about his manager and co-workers labeling him because his social style was different from theirs. They tended to see him only in the very general sense of his analytical style. When he would exhibit behavior that was out of the norm for that style, they would make a big deal of it, as though he was only capable of showing up analytically. This man had a great sense of adventure, was warm and humorous, and could be very enthusiastic. In spite of all these behaviors, which actually demonstrated his versatility with others in his department, it was a real struggle for him to get beyond the limiting stereotypes because his manager and co-workers would not let him out of the box. This process began to impede communication and productivity.
When we realize we have put someone in a box, it generally reveals an opportunity for us to expand our view of ourselves as well and take our success to a new level. A great deal of my work is focused on helping people elevate their awareness of themselves and others. One way I do that is by working with them regarding Social Styles, conflict styles, and emotional-behavioral intelligence. These workshops are a great way to help put some context around human behavior. The workshops are also a helpful means to educate people on how putting ourselves and others in a box can impact our success. Elevating our awareness enables our success to thrive.
How do people get out of the box? Simply put, we have to let them out. It is important for us to advance our understanding of how people show up; that is difficult to do when we are judging them. Improving our awareness of what drives our own behavior helps us to understand others as well. People do not really behave the way they do to irritate you or get on your last nerve, well….not all the time anyway! We behave the way that we do (this includes you too!) because that is our comfort zone. What can you do to shift the dynamic of putting people in a box?
- Look at your results; are you getting more of what you desire?
- Ask, “Where can I make a subtle shift in my behavior to improve the results I am getting (the ego may have to go on vacation here)?”
- You can choose a different perspective in which to view people and circumstances.
Your own self-correction can elevate your performance and reduce your tension. Imagine the wonderful possibilities of improved results with even a subtle shift in your behavior. What I have learned is that people tend to resist what they do not understand. Understanding and managing behavioral differences is a great way to increase productivity and see relationships and performance thrive.
We have the perfect opportunity to practice this as we all take a break to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Undoubtedly, some of you will be sharing the holiday with people who have been put in a box, how about giving them the benefit of the doubt? Take off the labels and the stereotypes and let them out of the box. Imagine how much more enjoyable your holiday will be! Bring this practice into your work also. You may just be surprised at what you learn and how your results improve, and your relationships may flourish! Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!