How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Do We Forget Our Values With ‘Different’ People?
Guest articles > Do We Forget Our Values With ‘Different’ People?
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
By any standards, I’m considered successful. A NYTimes bestselling author of 9 books, an inventor and thought leader, I’ve trained a very large number of people globally in a change facilitation model I invented (Buying Facilitation®), started up a successful tech company in the 1980s and a non-profit that helped thousands of people walk again, and had my picture on the cover of magazines. But unless I’m referred, unless people have followed my work and know me, I’m patronized, condescended to, ignored, and dismissed in most settings. Why? Because I have Asperger’s, and I relate and respond differently.
I’m told I’m intense, challenging, in your face. And I bet that’s all true, although I can’t tell because it all seems normal to me. And then, maybe because I don’t conform to the norm, or because I’m a woman, people feel they have the right to disrespect me. As a result, my important ideas about facilitating others through their own congruent change – so necessary in healthcare, leadership, sales, coaching - get ignored, misinterpreted, stolen, or ridiculed. And it’s a shame, as these concepts are not only revolutionary, but important and would serve a vast number of people.
And sometimes the people who unwittingly disrespect or ignore me are the same people who fervently believe in equality, diversity, and #metoo. How do these folks forget their values when they actually come face to face with someone like me who is merely ‘different’? Where do their values go?
WE ALL SEEK TO BE KIND
In our workplaces, our social lives, the daily lives of our children, our schools, our communities, it’s more urgent than ever that we communicate/serve others with kindness and equanimity, that we become intentional. But getting it right is often like walking an obstacle course. We mean well, but sometimes we inadvertently get it wrong. We certainly don't mean to.
Given our vantage point from the culture we identify with - with inbred norms and accepted behaviors – we sometimes unwittingly wound others from unfamiliar cultures because we don’t understand our differences. Obviously we can’t stand in their shoes, try as we might. Sometimes we don't have the knowledge to automatically behave correctly or recognize a misstep. Sometimes we unknowingly bias how we listen. And sometimes we don’t know for certain the correct action or communication approach.
I believe that if we operate from the universal values we all hold as human values, we will be more inclusive, less hurtful, be far more creative, and serve others. It’s time we learn to do the right thing.
Kindness. While our intent is usually to be kind, sometimes we unwittingly harm. How can we determine if our action will be experienced as hurtful or kind? For openers, we could stop making assumptions and begin dialogues by asking our communication partners for guidance on best communication styles, or ask to be told when/if we misstep. Personally, I hear what’s said differently than neurotypicals, and respond accordingly – which often confuses others. When I see a quizzical look on someone’s face I immediately ask them what they heard me say. I wish I had the ability to avoid the misstep, especially when people walk away rather than discuss it with me to find a common language and acceptance.
To mitigate this problem I’ve learned to introduce myself thus: “I have Asperger’s, and sometimes my responses are too direct and can cause hurt. Please accept my apologies in advance. And please let me know if I’ve confused or annoyed you so I can make it right. I have no intention to harm you. Help me make it right so we can be connected.” This usually works, and the incidents of miscommunication have drastically reduced. I understand that that few people intend to be unkind, and don’t realize it when they are. But it begs the question: how can we all just show up as kind people and accept differences as merely interesting instead of challenging?
Willingness to hear diverse ideas. We often assume our communication approach, our beliefs, the words we choose, our norms, are ‘the right ones’ and forget that these ideas are ‘right’ only for us. What would you need to believe differently to willingly listen to ideas that are diverse?
This is a big one for me. As an original thinker I regularly run into people eager to dismiss me, unwilling to consider my ideas worthwhile rather than be curious enough to consider them. Recently, at a think tank filled with lots of other smart people, I met a neuroscientist doing research in an area my original ideas could enhance and where I know the field is stuck. When I offered one of my new ideas, he called me a liar, saying my ideas were impossible (after I’ve trained it to thousands of people and written books on it).
When our idiosyncratic beliefs keep us from expanding our own knowledge base, we are not only harming ourselves but those who could benefit. Not to mention the world is restricted by the biases of those with the loudest voices and most acclaim along the lines of conventional thinking.
Curiosity. Our curiosity is biased by what we already know. It’s not even possible to be curious about something we know nothing, and therefore we restrict our sense of wonder. The best we can do is have our ears attuned to noticing when we hear something ‘new’ or ‘different’ or ‘odd’ and ask questions about it. The worse we can do is what too often happens: turn the other person off or put them down, preferring to be ‘safe’ with what we know.
It’s been quite ‘curious’ to me that when I tell others I’ve invented a new form of question (Facilitative Questions), a new form of training, or coded the physiology of change, I get disparaging looks, eye rolls, a derisive comment, and no curiosity. Seriously? Just imagine if I’m telling the truth! Consider the years folks like Da Vince, or Van Gogh, or Tesla had to struggle to get their new ideas accepted. All those wasted years we could have been learning from them while they were alive.
Imagine if each of us show up in each interaction authentically. No need to compete, or exhibit better-ness. No need to be right or smart. No need to be richer or more. Just people working, communicating, learning, growing, loving, creating together. I offer these givens:
What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to show up authentically, with each communication partner a potential friend, leader, or role model, and each communication an opportunity to make the world a better place? To recognize everyone as having value, not as Other. It’s time to begin. Now. The world, our lives, depend on it.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation® - a change management model that includes learning how to Listen for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions, and understanding the steps of systemic change. For those of you wishing to learn more, take a look at the program syllabus. Please visit www.dirtylittlesecrets.com and read the two free chapters. Consider reading it with the companion ebook Buying Facilitation®
Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With Integrity, as well as 6 other books on helping buyers buy. She is also the author of the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew keynotes, trains and coaches sales teams to help them unlock situations that are stalled, and teaches teams how to present and prospect by facilitating the complete buying decision process. She delivers keynotes at annual sales conferences globally. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 512 771 1117
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
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