A few months ago I had a wonderful holiday in the Caribbean, sun, sand, warm sea, beautiful beaches, all those things you expect of a Caribbean holiday. At various times on the trip we found ourselves in small talk situations meeting new people from all over the world – seriously from everywhere – which was awesome and fascinating. The first question most would ask was “where do you come from” or if they are from the United States they would ask “where did you come in from” our answer, New Zealand, was met with one of three typical responses loosely categorised as:
- LOTR – Wow I have always wanted to come to your country / is it really like Lord of the Rings? / you are so lucky to live in such a beautiful country or;
- Blank look – no idea whatsoever where New Zealand is / couldn’t understand my fast and harsh accent or;
- Australia – I went to a conference in Melbourne once / My brother spent a summer in Sydney after he graduated.
Luckily the vast majority of the initial responses were from the first category, as an example we spent ages with a customs guy in Puerto Rico who wanted to discuss the scenery in LOTR at length, or a German couple who wanted to discuss their planned trip to NZ to see the scenery of LOTR (what route should they take) so returned home absolutely positive every cent of tax payers money invested in those movies was worth it (an unexpected change in perspective for us).
The rest however, were mostly the 3rd category, many of those who consider New Zealand and Australia to be the same place were Americans, so by the end of the trip I was starting to feel slightly defensive as a proud kiwi that we are so inextricably linked to Australia in the minds of so many people. The ignorance! I thought, how dare they.
Then my perspective changed. We were flying home, from New York to San Francisco a 5 hour flight that crosses 9 or 10 states (depending on the flight path) of vast landscape, over many small towns, highways, forests and mountains. I’ve always known there are 50 states and that the USA is a vast country – we all do. Seeing it unfold below our flight it dawned on me I can probably only point to 6 states on a map, the 5 I have been to and Alaska, so how can I expect people from South Dakota or Texas to cognizantly realise that New Zealand and Australia are different places? when learning their own geography must be a mission? With that my perspective changed.
Roman Krznaric’s The Power of Outrospection animation is an interesting take on perspective, empathy and the concept of Outrospection vs Introspection, he highlights how we as a society have embraced self reflection and introspective and where empathy can be a powerful force in society.
Perspective and empathy are valid in business too and importantly these lead to trust. Since I tend to categorise generally – the most empathetic people I know / have dealt with in a business sense are Event Managers. Perhaps I notice the attention a good Event Manager applies to considering the requirements of all attendees because I am gluten free. A good event caters for people with differing requirements eg: physical capabilities, food allergies, language; has to take into consideration general preferences with seating, temperature, sound, visual, food / drink, timing of travel and so much more. A good event goes off without a hitch – think about recent weddings you have attended or a conference – because the Event Manager considered the perspectives of the many and the few.
Thinking about the perspective of the other party can lead to a vastly improved relationship and trust, perhaps you have a customer who always complains? have you considered their perspective? do they understand yours? Empathy and seeing things from another perspective don’t come naturally to some people and are incredibly important in business as in life. Some of the key points The Power of Outrospection makes could lead to ultimately improving relationships, it only takes a few seconds to consider another perspective, perhaps it’s worth spending some more time really understanding the perspective of the other party you are engaging with you never know where that could lead.
After all – It’s about a Happy Ending – one of our three core values at OptimalBI. Happy endings require perspective, empathy and trust. Something to think about this week. Thanks for reading, Vic.