As leaders in this COVID-19 new normal, we will have to learn how to function outside the box of our normal way of doing things or our comfort zone if we are going to be effective going forward. But before we can function outside our comfort zone, we first must learn how to think outside our comfort zone.
When things are new and different and we must learn how to function in them, we tend to get nervous, anxious, afraid and sometimes plain angry. Sometimes, the new way of functioning is not as difficult compared to the mental shift we have to make in order for us to start functioning in it. It gets even more difficult when you had no say in the new normal and you have to go along with it anyway.
Before you can make the functional shift, you must first make the mental shift. And the way to start the process of making the mental shift is for you to start intentionally engaging with people whose views are outside your comfort zone or outside your box.
I am the kind of person who enjoys being in the presence of people who see life from my point of view. When I am with these people, I am happy, calm and in control. No tension or emotion is rising because all our conversations are agreeable. I don’t have to think outside my box because everyone is in the box with me, no disagreements. I like living like that. I suspect the same is true for you.
But if I want to grow as a person, and more so as a leader, I cannot afford to surround myself only with those who see things like I do. I must have some people around me who see things differently. People who can challenge me in my ways of thinking and doing things. This can be uncomfortable, painful and challenging. But this is necessary if you are going to grow and develop.
While most of us tend to avoid having conversations with people who disagree with us or see things differently from us, we can hardly expect to broaden our narrow way of looking at life if we don’t. Many leaders run into trouble because they are not open to the views of people outside their box. And they often have to deal with the consequences of failing to invite the input of differing views. Leaders who think their ways are always the right ways are often insecure in their roles.
Inviting people of differing views to dialogue with you calls for a certain level of emotional and mental maturity. Leaders who are insecure, lack boundaries and are not clear on their convictions and principles will always feel threatened by those around them with differing views.
If you are going to reach out to those outside of your comfort zone or box, you will have to be intentional in inviting them into your world; and when they show up, you have to make them feel welcome if you want to continue the dialogue. How do you engage people with differing views in your world, or how should you show up in theirs?
Begin by respecting their points of view whether you agree with them or not. Keep in mind that they value their viewpoints as much as you value your own. It is a common mistake to become so focused on our point of view and how right we are, we appear to disrespect and discard the views of those outside of our box.
Do not assume you know what someone means because you speak the same language. Ask people to explain what they mean until you can repeat back to them what they said. Ask, “Is this what you mean?” Sometimes in our heads we become so focused on comparing and contrasting our point of view with the other person’s that we jump to conclusions, assuming we know what they mean without confirming that we understand what they are saying.
Be aware of how you react to hearing different views. While you may say in words that you are open to engaging with someone with a different point of view, your body language may be saying something else. You may look distracted or bored, etc. Also, watch your tone of voice, when we think we are right, we can come across a bit condescending, angry and frustrated.
Engaging with people outside your box is not easy, but it is possible and can be healthy for you as you grow and develop as a person.
Are you intentional in engaging in dialogue with others who have differing views from your own? How do those encounters end? Do you come away feeling angry, frustrated and superior, or feeling like you are a better person for having engaged in the conversation?
Maybe the last conversation outside your box did not go well. It’s time to try another one of these conversations, this time begin with being respectful, ask for clarity of understanding and pay attention to your body language. You can do this with a family member, friend, co-worker, or your neighbor.
Remember, before you can start functioning in the COVID-19 new normal, you first have to make the mental shift of starting to engage with people whose views are outside your comfort zone. Thinking always comes before doing.
If you would like help in achieving your goals as a leader or in any area of your life, call us at 208-880-0307 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a complimentary coaching session. To read Errol’s other posts, visit Christ-Centered Life Coaching.