My way or your way?
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Many years ago, when our children were small, my husband decided to surprise me with a trip to see the whales off Kaikoura. Unbeknownst to me he arranged for my mother to look after the children for a couple of days, packed my bag, and instead of driving home after church, headed up the coast.
Now seeing the whales was high on my bucket list but I struggled to enjoy my time away, even though I knew how much thought my husband had put into the trip. You see, I hate surprises. I don’t like someone else packing my bag, and I feel really cheated if I don’t get to experience the anticipation of a coming event. To me it feels like someone took away half the joy of an experience, because of their need to go ‘surprise!!!’.
But it was the thought that counted and so a few months later I decided to repay the gesture and organised a surprise trip for my husband. Once again my parents were engaged to mind the children and I picked Geoff up from work and headed out of town. Now at this point of the Kaikoura trip, I had gone into action and used the hours we were in the car quizzing him about what he’d packed, did he remember my makeup, where were we staying, what were we going to do, how long would be away etc etc. But as I drove past the turnoff for our house, Geoff put the seat back closed his eyes and went to sleep. You see my husband loves surprises.
So why am I telling you these stories? As humans we have a really strong bias towards things that make sense to us. We naturally engineer experiences for others based on what we would like for ourselves. The presents we give others are usually things we like and we tend to treat others the way we want to be treated.
It actually takes a deliberate act of your will to put aside what you like and to figure out what works for others. The best ways to do this are conversations where you listen to understand, observing what others do, or immersing yourself in their world. You’ll be amazed at what you discover and how much more people will love you because you do things they love.
This week I read an interesting article entitled What if everything you knew about disciplining kids was wrong. The writer gives insights into some remarkable research by psychologist Ross Greene which suggests that many children with significant behavioural issues have yet to acquire the brain functions needed to manage their behaviour.
The article goes on to say:
“Under Greene’s philosophy, you’d no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You’d talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.”
In a nutshell this is using a design thinking to solve a discipline problem. This approach is effective whether it is the behaviour of a child or a coworker that you are trying to put back on track.
Consider how much time you spend trying to diagnose a problem and talking with others about it, compared to how much time you spend with the actual person, to deeply understand why they do what they do. If you can work with them to figure this out, then you are a long way down the track to solving the problem together.
A few years later my husband organised another surprise trip for me. It was going to Melbourne to see the Phantom of the Opera, something that I had dreamed of doing for years. This time however, having learnt from the Kaikoura experience, he told me three days before we were to leave, giving me time to think about what I would take to wear, to check that the children had everything they needed, and to get ridiculously excited about seeing a show I had listened to a million times on my double LP record!!! - yes it was a long time ago. And I’m pleased to report we had a wonderful weekend away.
Never underestimate the value of deeply understanding what matters to others, and how much they appreciate you doing things with them rather than to them.
Til next time
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