The Outsider View

I had an opportunity to be interviewed by a wonderful, engaging woman this week – Dana Woods, who hosts a show called “Professional Scope Power Hour.” Dana wanted to discuss how younger employees can communicate effectively with their older peers. We had a great dialogue and it was a fun show. To kick off the show, Dana started to talk about the difficult people she encounters. She talked about a neighbor of hers with a dog who aggravates her a bit, because the dog comes over to her house every day. She was asking how best to deal with this situation.

Now, many of you who read my blog know that I AM the annoying neighbor here where I live! I have the dogs and the neighbor who stopped speaking to me because I was upsetting her (although I didn’t know I was upsetting her…). It was funny to hear a perspective from the other side as Dana talked. There are always two views and two sides to any situation – in this case, the one with the dog, and the one without. Depending on your vantage point, your view will be very different. The discussion we had on Dana’s radio show reminded me again how necessary it is to slip into the Interested Observer role as much as we can. Sometimes stepping outside mentally allows us the space and understanding we lack when we stay stuck in our own position, believing we are “right.”

One night this week, after this radio show, I facilitated a meeting at the local animal shelter. This group of five very dedicated people had worked together a long time and were trying to figure out how to get to the next step in their growth. In past meetings, discussions got somewhat contentious because each person had a different viewpoint on what should happen next (Secret #1: The filters!).

As the outsider with no emotional investment, I could watch what was going on and ask questions to try and elicit the underlying thoughts, concerns and issues. It turned out that the group was very much aligned, but their way of talking about what they wanted differed – and their ideas about how to accomplish what they wanted differed, as well. In just a short two hours, they were able to come to agreement on what they needed to do next. There was enthusiasm and excitement and a sense of relief by the end. While they thanked me profusely, I could see that all they needed was for the “Interested Observer” to sit in and provide some perspective.

We gain so much energy in our relationships and in both personal and work situations when we adopt the Interested Observer role and become more curious about what is happening, rather than being emotional and defensive. Many times we aren’t even really listening to what someone else is saying, because we are so entrenched in our position. When we allow ourselves the opportunity to be more open, more objective and more focused on the other, most times we find it to be a positive experience.