Shifting From “ME” to “WE” – How To Be Open To The Perspectives Of Others

tumblr_lxm4q6qCdt1r3rnjdo1_400When standing back and looking at the world we live in, one can’t help but notice the amount of judging and criticizing that surrounds us.  It can be seen in the books and papers we read, the magazines we buy, the TV and movies we watch.   We hear it around the water cooler at work, socializing with friends, at schools, at the playground, and even about the foods we feed ourselves and families.  It’s tweeted, Facebook’d, and blogged.  People are constantly striving to be smarter, faster, thinner, healthier, greener, richer, and more successful, judging and criticizing ourselves, and others, along the way.  This is a language that can unite people – drawing those together who wouldn’t normally interact, and some that haven’t even met, regardless of where they are around the world.

When looking at this from a communications perspective, particularly when building relationships, if one is using the approach of right/wrong or “I know best”, we refer to that as “ME”.   In “ME”, the lens we use and the perspective from which we see the world is that of our own, and only our own.  Our “ME” lens is solely influenced and shaped by our past experiences, beliefs, values, family of origin, educators, culture, and faith.  When we get stuck in “ME” it is hard for us to be open to seeing, hearing or understanding any other perspective because we firmly believe that we are right.  IF somebody has a different perspective than we do, then that might mean that we are “wrong” or not as successful, smart, educated .. the list goes on.  Let’s face it, no one wants to be “wrong”.  It can be really difficult to be open to others when we ourselves are challenged with letting go of our own past beliefs and experiences that no longer serve us.

As we discussed in “How Is Your WOLF Voice Affecting You?” if we want people to be open to what we say and to gain a better understanding of who we are, we first need to be open to having new perspectives ourselves and challenging our past beliefs, experiences, and values that may not be serving us well.  What did you learn about your WOLF voice?

Some of the most successful work we have had is work done in triads.  As we move along working with the learners in their triads one of the things that really stands out is the ‘aha’ so many of them experience around the 4th hour of coaching.  As explained by them, at that moment, they realize that everything does not have to be about them.  They can look beyond themselves to others as they listen to what is being said and focus on staying curious and asking open questions.  By removing themselves and their emotions, and focusing on the content and truly listening to what the other person has to say, they are able to be open to new perspectives.  They shift from their singular lens “ME” of knowing what is best and right/ wrong to “WE” where they are open to learning the perspectives of others.  This seems to be a pivotal point in their learning, one that was explained as, ‘once one develops this awareness, there is no going back’.  It seems they no longer perceive the world as being just about them.  For many it becomes freeing to be open to a new mindset where they are relieved and excited that they don’t need to have all “the answers”.

It becomes OK for them to sit back and be curious, ask open questions, and learn about the perspectives of others.  Let’s be clear, just because you listen to the perspectives of others doesn’t mean you have to waver in your beliefs or values and agree with them.  Your values and beliefs are unique to you, as are your perspectives.  We are simply inviting you to be open to and listen to new perspectives, the different perspectives of others that may feel counter intuitive to you.   What you choose to take from those perspectives is up to you.  How you choose to learn from them is a choice you make.   The success of relationships lies in our ability to honor and learn from the perspectives of others while still being true to, and honoring, ourselves.

Let’s looks at a statement.  “I am not feeling very well.  I think I need to go home”.   Take a moment and reflect on how you heard that statement.  Now, imagine how a boss or employer might hear that.  Now imagine how a mother would hear that, or a spouse or a partner.  How about a doctor, or a therapist?  How about teacher, or a student, or a grandmother, or an Olympic training coach?

Without digging deeper, being curious, and asking open questions it is easy for us to judge, criticize, make assumptions and be closed to the perspectives of others based on our own beliefs, experiences and values.  Take a minute and reflect how often you take the time to be curious and dig deeper to gain clarity around others before you pass judgment, make assumptions, or criticize the actions and thoughts of others?  What stops you from wanting to be open to their perspective?

Being open to the perspectives of others allows us to be open to new possibilities.  Things that once seemed impossible with a fresh new perspective become absolutely possible.  How many of you in a moment of frustration or feeling blocked, challenged and unable to move forward have taken a walk, a visit to the mountains or beach, or just simply changed your scenery?  And in that time/ moment that you changed your scenery you were able to think of your challenge/ block/ frustration differently and new possibilities emerged?  “When we look at things with new eyes, the things we look at change”.   By simply changing our environment, personally we can become open to new possibilities.

Now, imagine the possibilities when we take the time to change our communication environment when building our relationships and the trip to the beach is our ability to reframe the conversation so that you become open and curious to learn about another.   Think of all the new possibilities, learning opportunities, collaboration and innovation that become open to you!  When building relationships we refer to that as “WE”.  Shifting from the sole “ME” to the open “WE”.  That is where the magic happens.


1.    LISTEN:  We have learned that we all believe we are good listeners.  We have also learned that it is not about WHAT we listen to rather it is HOW we listen to others.  When we are stuck in “ME” we tend to “listen” as problem solvers, waiting for a spot to jump in and tell others what to do, how to do it and in a way that implies we are right and they are wrong.  We get that we all want to be experts in our lives, however, telling, judging, and making assumptions as an expert are a sure way to kill a relationship.  In order to build relationships it is important to see, hear and understand others and we do that by having awareness around how we listen: stop what we are doing, focus on the speaker, be aware of body language, paraphrase back what we hear for clarity, and quiet the gremlins in our head. (For more listening tools and techniques see  “What Does Your Listening Style Say About You?” “How To Listen So People Will Talk”).  When we are able to listen to others with no personal agenda, just simply listen to the speaker and keep the focus on the speaker, we can become open and curious to learn about new perspectives.

2.    ASK QUESTIONS:  It is really difficult to learn anything if we are not curious and ask open questions.  Most of us are really great at making assumptions, yet how often do you test those assumptions?  Asking OPEN questions (who, what, where, when, how) allow you to dig deeper, test assumptions and gain a greater understanding of the speaker and their perspective.  Why tends to hold judgment so we suggest using it sparingly.  Can’t think of a question – Tell me more is also a great way to learn more.   If you find yourself stuck ask yourself “What am I curious about?” “What do I want to learn more about?”  “How can I look at this differently?” so you can gain a deeper understanding of the others perspective.

3.    LEARN – DON’T JUDGE:  New thoughts and ideas can be scary.  New possibilities and opportunities can be scary.  Living in a world where we are surrounded by judgers can be hard to rise above and learn from others rather than judge them, or ourselves.  When you find yourself wanting to judge, criticize or blame ask yourself: “What can I learn from this?”, “What I am assuming?”, “What am I fearing about this perspective?”  Or if you find yourself with new possibilities and opportunities and are reluctant to follow through, ask yourself “What is stopping me?  What past belief, value, or experience is standing in my way?”

If you find yourself in a spot where it feels impossible to learn anything from another’s perspective then flip it and reframe. Ask yourself “How can I look at this differently?”  Keep the focus on what is possible rather than what you feel might be impossible.  If there is one thing we have learned it is that with different perspectives rarely is anything impossible!