One reason it's difficult to understand each other is that behind the words we use are the worldviews, the emotions and the beliefs we have before we even consider what's being said.
Before we get to right and wrong, good or bad, effective or ineffective, we begin with worldview.
They affect the way we choose a car, engage in a conversation or vote. These cultural and learned worldviews alter the way we see and hear and speak.
Words like: Fairness, change, interference, freedom, responsibility and opportunity trigger different reactions based on worldview. It's always easier to encourage action based on an existing worldview than it is to change that view.
The columns below don't line up for everyone (or anyone), but instead highlight different instincts on different axes on how each of us see the world in any given moment...
|An all-powerful authority||Treat others as you'd
want to be treated
right now, right later
|Exploration, truth, working toward perfect, always a little wrong|
power, agency, taking space
|Role awareness, dignity,
giving space, flexibility
|Deserve, entitled, keep||Share, distribute, invest|
|Ends and means||Means and ends|
|Getting things done||Listening, speaking up
and being heard
|Power, authority, compliance, respect, status||Fairness, hope, justice,
|Realism, denial||Optimism, pessimism|
|Equity, fairness and
the alleviation of suffering
long-term thinking, wisdom
Once we understand the landscape that someone sees, we have an easier time using words and images to fill in that landscape, to create a story that they can hear and understand, and, perhaps, we can make change happen.
It's not "less."
If we care enough, the opposite of more is better.
Being locked out of your car is not an interesting problem. Call five locksmiths, hire the cheap and fast one, you'll be fine.
And getting a script written or a book cover designed isn't that interesting either. There are thousands of trained professionals happy to do it for you.
On the other hand, if you need a script that will win awards, sell tickets and change lives, that's difficult. And interesting. Or if you need a book cover that will leap off the shelf, define a segment, make a career—that's hard as well.
An interesting problem is one that's never been solved in quite this way before. It's not always going to work. The stakes are high. It involves coloring outside the lines.
Most solution providers (freelancers/firms/professionals) shy away from the interesting problems. There's not a lot of firm ground to stand on. There's more apparent risk than most people are comfortable with. It's too easy to shy away and pull back a little.
And it's a big but...
The few who are willing to engage in interesting problems are worth working with.
A fish is not like a bicycle, but they're not mutually exclusive. You can have both.
Part of our culture admires reason. It celebrates learning. It seeks out logic and coherence and an understanding of the how and the why.
At the same time, there are other people who seek out influence and authority. Either to exercise it or to blindly follow it.
Sometimes, they overlap. Sometimes, power is guided by reason. But that's not required, not in the short run. And sometimes, reasonable, informed people wield power. But again, as a visit to a university's English department will show, not always.
It's tempting for the powerful to argue with those that admire reason, pointing out how much power they wield.
And it's tempting for the well-informed to argue with those that have power, pointing out how little reason they possess.
But just as a fish isn't going to stop you from riding a bicycle, these arguments rarely work, because power and reason don't live on the same axis. Listening to someone argue from the other axis is a little like watching TV with the sound off. It might look normal, but it is hard to follow.
Before we engage, we need to agree on what's being discussed.
This is the snarky feedback of someone whose bias is to hustle instead of to stand for something.
When you say 'no' to their pitch, they merely smile and congratulate you on the quaint idea that you have standards.
Their mindset is to cut corners, slip things by if they can. The mindset of, "Well, it can't hurt to ask." Predators and scavengers, nosing around the edges and seeing what they score.
They talk about standards as if they're a luxury, the sort of thing you can do as a hobby, but way out of the mainstream.
The thing is, if you begin with standards and stick with them, you don't have to become a jackal to make ends meet. Not only is there nothing wrong with having standards, it turns out to be a shortcut to doing great work and making an impact.
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