Thinking well enough of the other person

I remember when I had a role in a large corporate, years ago. I described a particular director to a colleague as difficult. They were surprised.

“Really? I know he is a bit gruff, but he really means well. Catch him in the right moment and he will listen to you.”

And so it was. I realised when I had thought about it later that I had made a case against this man on the basis of little or no evidence. And it hampered my ability to relate to him, as well as influence him.

There are opportunities to influence people that we may have closed down unwittingly because, in our own estimation, we have written them off. We have limited our expectancy of them in our own minds. “Oh, they are hopeless,” we think and say. 

And right there, we have created the real problem. 

In effect, we have projected onto that person (and this applies to a group as well) a stereotype that they are impervious to persuasion. In the process, we disempower ourselves. We make ourselves their victim. Our attitude is as if we have a mental map with a sign that says, “Change attempts do not work here.”

What if we were doing this differently? If we think the best of people first, then we are likely to see potential in them that they don’t even see in themselves. This approach positions us to inspire them and to lead them. Often leadership is first about calling out the best in people. 

We love leaders when they do that in us. 

In stakeholder engagement, we discuss the stakeholder engagement strategy. Yet, the most basic strategy stands or falls by the hope we bring to it. If we don’t expect a lot of the people involved, then it is likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, if we think the best of them, we set ourselves up for surprising success. 

What could you do change your view of that person or group?

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