Why changes of perspective are important
The first glance is overrated. Anyone who claims that they can assess and understand people at first sight, after the first meeting, after just a few minutes, is overestimating themselves. The first glance conveys an impression, certainly, it gives a direction, but nothing more. If you really want to get to know and understand people, you need more, much more. You need a change of perspective.
In many organisations, especially in companies, superficialities are the order of the day. In conversations, meetings and discussions, most people prefer to talk about themselves, about their own achievements and experiences or about their knowledge. But very few ask questions. Yet it is precisely this questioning and inquiring that is the key to really understanding people in companies and other organisations (and in private life, too, by the way), to developing a common language that is so important for fruitful cooperation and functioning communication. Successful companies have a culture in which this communication is central, in which 360-degree assessments and conversations and thus changes of perspective are part of everyday life.
Listening is an important skill
In my professional career as a communication strategist, listening is at the core of understanding my clients and partners. I have always been interested in people, and that doesn’t just mean their facade, their looks, their outward appearance. I want to know what they stand for, what really makes them tick, what is inside them, what drives them and at the same time what they are really passionate about. And that’s why in conversations I always focus on getting to know my counterpart rather than on presenting myself.
The way to get there is through concretisation. I like it when people leave the meta-level, say goodbye to generalities, open up and become concrete. In today’s language, phrases like “everything is fine” have crept in, which to some extent reflect the superficiality of today’s communication. But with which person is everything really “all good”? It is always worth asking exactly what the other person is talking about, what they like, what they loathe, where they want to go, what they have experienced, how they are really doing and what they are thinking. Gestures and facial expressions alone reveal a lot and usually unconsciously reinforce statements.
Asking specifically what really makes people tick
To do this, you have to listen. That sounds easy, but many people lack the ability to simply listen and give people the space to really show themselves with questions. Listening is the opposite of presenting oneself. It’s about finding out in concrete detail what really makes people tick, what they dream of, what expectations they also have of themselves.
In communication counselling, this is extremely important. After all, it is about positioning the client externally and internally with his or her core. So it is crucial to really understand him or her! The better you succeed in going into detail and telling stories, the more stable the basis on which a cooperation can be built. There are no ready-made questions and at the same time I must never give my counterpart the feeling that I am questioning him or her.
The point is: I usually don’t even know what I’m really looking for at the beginning of the conversation. But this is exactly the recipe for success of the change of perspective: the real, genuine interest often flushes out qualities, wishes, expectations and fears that one would never have discovered, for example, by filling out a predefined questionnaire. This is how new perspectives, other points of view emerge, this is how new skills and uniqueness can be worked out that otherwise would not have come to light.
And that helps both sides. Because if you take another person’s perspective, you can also learn something from them. This curiosity drives me to this day. I enjoy making people visible, with all their abilities, qualities and talents. To prepare a stage for them and to put the focus on people who are more multifaceted than their professional role or function. But to really be able to do that, it is not enough to just scratch the surface with my counterpart. That is not enough. In my profession, I see myself as a kind of sparring partner or impulse giver who helps the change of perspective to bring out the special features and uniqueness of my clients.
This is how I have built up trust over the years, and I succeed in summarising and preparing people’s abilities in such a way that they find themselves in them – and thus stand out from their competitors. That’s why the search for something special always takes up a large part of my work – and that pays off, for my clients or interlocutors as well as for me.
Change of perspective with appreciative dialogue
A change of perspective is therefore always worthwhile. Those who find it difficult have to practise it. I always concentrate on the approach of appreciative dialogue. This involves asking the person I am talking to questions about what is on their mind at the moment, why they are taking part in the conversation, what issues they are currently dealing with. And then it is important to listen carefully. If you really listen to people and let their answers sink in, you will recognise much more in their statements than what is contained at first glance.
The essence of a personal conversation is often found between the lines. So with every answer from my interlocutor(s), I ask myself what I really heard, what impressed me and what surprised me. If you don’t know this technique, you can practise listening to your interlocutor using this method, interpreting their words and then asking them if this interpretation is correct. It is important to refrain from any form of judgement. With the help of appreciative dialogue, every conversation becomes an opportunity to learn something about the other person and to benefit from it.
As a managing director or expert, do you want to successfully communicate digitally in the market, get in touch with the media or be present on social media, but don’t have the time to take care of it yourself? Then contact Nina Muelhens – it’s worth it!
Nina Muelhens has published another post on the t2informatik Blog:
Two apprenticeships, one degree, several exciting jobs and two start-ups: Curiosity and enthusiasm have always driven Nina Muelhens and always open up new opportunities.
In addition to her work as press spokesperson for the Yellow Pages brand, she founded her communications consultancy nina muelhens. Kommunikation klipp & klar. to build value-creating relationships. The focus is on value-creating communication and positioning of managing directors in classic media formats as well as social media.
As co-founder and managing director, Nina has brought the non-profit company DigitalSchoolStory to life. The social education start-up anchors new ways of learning with storytelling, agile methods and media use in schools in order to develop students from pure social media consumers into active creators.