Have you ever noticed how easy it is to disagree with someone? Rarely do we see the world exactly the same way as those around us which makes the art of considering the perspective of others so important. Like most ideas that I write about, I ran across an article (http://goo.gl/rTiHMy) that was all about the keys to finding common ground, particularly when we are faced with conflict or disagreement. At Condit we call this skill Habit 5 Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. We talk lots about considering the viewpoint of others and really seeking to comprehend what someone else is saying, and feeling, before we ask others to consider our perspective. A few pieces of the article stuck out to me and helped me make connections to the work we do at Condit.
- Remember why we are here. Whether it is a teacher meeting with a parent, a student meeting with a teacher, or a conversation with an administrator it is important to bear in mind our mission at Condit – growing tomorrow’s leaders today. I suppose that is a bit too global for some, so let’s boil it down to this: we all want our students to maximize their potential as learners and as leaders. The next time there is a grade that doesn’t look right, an assignment that may have gone missing, or a question about something going on around campus think about what the end goal should be – growing our learners.
- Focus on moving forward. A big part of finding common ground is to acknowledge the past, but to concern yourself more with the present and the future. I’m not trying to espouse the ideology of Hakuna Matata for all you Lion King fans out there, but I have found that focusing on moving forward will allow a conversation to do just that…move forward. Conversely, a conversation solely about what has already transpired will often inhibit sorting a situation out.
- Ask really good questions and listen very carefully. Someone once asked me if, when I am part of a conversation, I was listening or just waiting my turn to talk and that has always stuck with me. This is a tough one! When you have something to say it is a real challenge to set personal ideas aside and truly listen and consider to what someone else is saying, to ask probing questions and really think about a situation from a different perspective. I have found that when I do this well I will often forget what I had ‘planned’ to talk about because the conversation has become authentic and I am really practicing habit 5.
The world has no shortage of disagreements and I believe this to be a good thing. We value diversity in many ways, and differences in ideas is just another way that diversity enriches us. While we won’t always see eye to eye, I hope we can appreciate the perspectives of others as we make decisions and do what is best for our students. My plan: to continue to do my best to seek first to understand, find the common ground, and to remain #conditproud.