How To Be Someone Else

InTouch - Newsletter - #76

Welcome to the seventy-sixth edition of “In-Touch”. As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please hit reply and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: How To Be Someone Else

During one of my recent leadership workshops, I was discussing the importance of avoiding negative speech. In response to this, one participant raised his hand to suggest a limitation to this theory. In practice, he said, you sometimes have to call a spade a spade and admit that ‘no’ is the only possible answer.

On hearing this, Pagona Liggou, HR Director at one of the island’s finest hotels, intervened to share a piece of advice that she had received from a manager during her formative years. It was this: “When faced with a seemingly unsurmountable problem, step outside yourself, sit next to yourself and contemplate the action you would take if you were someone who could solve it.” In other words, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see a particular problem from a perspective different from your own. Where you see only negativity, that other person may see a solution.

As I listened to Pagona, I couldn’t help recalling the idea proposed by the renowned psychologist and author Edward de Bono in his best-selling book ‘Six Thinking Hats’. His premise is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged and used in a structured way that allows us to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues. De Bono identifies six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged and he uses coloured hats as metaphors for each direction. Switching to another direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat. When wearing the black hat, de Bono says, one focuses on risks, difficulties and problems. While useful in risk management, the black hat can become limiting when overused and it may be wise to try and change it for a green hat, which focuses on possibilities, alternatives and new ideas.

Like Edward de Bono, Pagona’s former manager understood that, when we are tempted to be negative – when our negative self urges us to accept that something is impossible and to say “no” – a solution may reveal itself if we can change our perspective, by trying to see it through someone else’s eyes.

It’s my belief that a solution exists for almost every single problem to which the only answer appears to be “no”. It’s all about becoming another person: the one who looks at a difficult situation and insists: “Yes, I can solve that.”

Words of Wisdom

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” Winston Churchill

“Negativity is the enemy of creativity.” David Lynch

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“Have you ever asked yourself: “How would [someone you admire] solve this problem?” What was the answer?”