“No, I’m still not getting it …”
Can you run that by me one more time?
Have you heard someone say that to you recently?
Maybe they are thinking it.
It requires someone to trust you, feel safe around you, confident enough to speak their mind, to be brave enough to say that they don’t get it. Maybe they are just faking it, and nod in agreement. Maybe you are from an oriental culture, saying I’m not getting it to someone is perceived as rude and a sign of disrespect. So, you continue assuming your job is done.
And then there is a deeper level of not getting it. This is where their brain says, Yes, I understand, but it is purely cognitive. They recognise the idea, they might remember the words, but do they understand it? Do they experience what you are saying, by meeting someone living it, for example, or practising it themselves?
Cultural biases to getting it
How our culture can impede our deep understanding
Some eastern cultures can limit honest confirmation of someone understanding you. This has happened to me in India, and with people from China and Japan.
But western cultures have a different problem. In the West, we have a linear, progressive, informational understanding of knowledge and wisdom. Compare this to the Hebrew mindset, for example. Truth and wisdom is something rather more circular, something we assimilate by returning to it again and again. Whereas in the West, we want something novel, some new information; so, going over the same ground repeatedly is a real challenge for us because most of us are impatient to move on. After all, time’s short.
Run that by me again
I have been reviewing some of the maps in my Leader’s Map Room and adding a new one from Robert Fritz on the dynamic tension that leaders should create. I say a new one, but I came across this particular map or model some thirty years ago. And the dynamic tension map is still not tired or out-of-date for me.
In this map, the leader needs to create tension by clarifying and communicating the current position and the desired outcome. I heard one very successful leader once say,
“I cast the vision until I think people are sick of hearing it … and then they are just about getting it.”
When we lead people in change, the bias to under-communicate is huge. We feel we have been understood, but we need to check.
A Sounding Board
Get a fool to replay it back
One way is to ask someone to replay what you said.
A story, probably apocryphal but I love it, was when Napoleon was told about a man who had a severe social impediment, which was that whenever there was any ambiguity, this man would take the wrong interpretation. It would intensely annoy people around him. But to Bonaparte, this was a great gift, such that he employed this man to come on campaigns with him as an aide, so that whenever he wrote out a command to one of his marshals in the heat of battle, he would give it to “Napoleon’s Fool” first, to tell the Emperor what he thought it meant. If the “Fool” responded with the wrong interpretation, Napoleon would rewrite the command until it was crystal clear.
And what about us? How much of what we think we understand is still only a superficial, surface understanding? Sometimes, it is in adversity that we dig deep and grow in our understanding of deep truths.