5 Ways to Get Out of La La Land
You haven’t figured yourself out. What makes you think you understand others?
You make snap decisions about people with a smattering of information.
Listen for “that’s because” when you evaluate people. You’re making up stories about why they do what they do. You’re fabricating motivations.
- She asked difficult questions. That’s because she disagrees with me.
- He’s quiet. That’s because he doesn’t like me.
- He didn’t tell the whole story. That’s because he’s being manipulative.
- She’s late. That’s because she’s lazy.
- He’s frowning. That’s because he’s mad about something.
- She keeps asking about my project. That’s because she doesn’t trust me.
Judgment by fabricated fairy tale:
You judge people based on cooked up motivations. Once you judge them, you cling to the fairy tales that validate your decision. When challenged, you defend your fabrications. Get out of la-la land.
5 ways to get out of la la land:
- People’s responses to you include something you did. When evaluating people, include your own interactions with them.
- There’s an inner accuser inside everyone’s head that tells them they’re a loser. Show some kindness. Tell them what they’re doing right.
- People want to succeed. No one gets out of bed determined to fail. Ask them:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What are you doing to achieve that?
- What might you do to achieve even greater success? (Based on their definition of achievement.)
- How might I help you succeed?
- People need to feel respect. How might you show respect today, even when challenging someone or confronting tough issues?
- You don’t know what’s going on inside someone’s head. Chances are, they aren’t sure. Hold your judgments loosely. Stay open.
How might leaders rise above their own fabricated stories?
What are some positive ways to complete, “That’s because…?”
This one hits hard. I make snap judgments about others the minute I see them. Then the self-perceived notion becomes my reality. Whoa to me.
Thanks Adam. Your candor is admirable. I think lots of us do exactly the same thing. Being aware is the first step to moving forward.
Great Post!! Thanks for the admonition to listen first, speak second, and always assume the positive!!
Thanks J. Your kind to stop in and give a word of encouragement.
I really like this J. Forsythe. Thank you for sharing.
A while back a professor showed the class a line drawing of a rat, except that all the lines did not meet. He asked the class what it was and we all said, “a rat”. He replied, “No, its just a bunch of lines, remember that.” I have but I still work on this. – J
An interesting corollary is the drawing of the hat from The Little Prince- all the adults saw was a hat but he had actually drawn a boa constrictor digesting an elephant!
Thanks J. “It’s just a bunch of line.” LOVE IT. Great illustration for how we can make more out of something than we should.
For those of us who lean toward being overly responsible for everything, it is also good to remember those “that’s because” statements can be in la la land even when introspective. I have a tendency to create the fairytale to the tune of my own shortcomings: “He isn’t smiling…that’s because I must look grumpy and made him grumpy.” “She asked about the project again… that’s because I must not be going fast enough.” Regardless of which way we finish the assumptive explanation it is still an assumption and no good.
Great post Dan, as usual, and another excellent demonstration of how important honest, forthcoming and direct communication truly is.
Thanks Taber. Awesome comment. The stories we make up have a big impact on how we think about ourselves, as well as others.
Wow, I needed to read this. I need more patience and compassion to become a better leader. We all breathe the same air. Thanks for the wake up call !!
Thanks Spark. Love your transparency. I wrote this to myself first. Glad you found it useful.
Thank you for this post, know plenty of people and myself who have been on both ends of this, in good and bad ways.
Thanks Alla. It’s great when we get it right. 🙂
“Tell them what they are doing right”. It is amazing how much more you get from your team when you do this. Great post.
Thanks Mim…Bingo! Thanks for dropping in.
This is so true. I have challenged myself many times to only take the information someone tells me, at face value, only what they have said and assume the best possible intentions. It is harder than you think to resist creating a dialog in your head that answers the questions…”why did they…?” But more than once I have found that the best possible intentions were true, or at least pretty good ones. And I also found that when less than best was true, that assuming the best usually made the interaction better. I forget this all of the time, though.
Thanks Katie. Your insights are so helpful. “Assume the best”…if they demonstrate that your assumptions are wrong, you can deal with it. 🙂
This is a fantastic reminder.
Our perceptions are our reality. If we are aware the ways we influence our perceptions with quick judgments (stories/fabrications) and that we hold onto these as if they were facts, we may be able to intervene in that tiny amount of time between cause and effect. Altering our stories and fabrications is the key to changing our reactions into actions, were we have more control within the situation.
I have a question on one part I do not understand.
When you state “People’s responses to you include something you did.” What do you mean by this?
I see people’s responses including their fabrications of why and what I’ve done or not done. Which, if I follow my own thinking of perceptions = reality, then their fabrications are their reality, therefore People’s responses include something I did (within their reality, that may or may not match mine)
Thanks Opnick. Your idea of catching the process when you see it happening is essential. Once we form an opinion we have to unlearn it, if it’s wrong.
The idea of people’s responses include something you did is my way of encouraging us to look at ourselves when we see people acting in disappointing ways.
People’s responses are about them. But, they are also about the way we treat them.
You hit this one out of the park! I love this post. I often talk about this concept in the presentations I do. Offense occurs when you assign meaning or intent to someone else’s behavior without knowledge. It’s the stories I tell myself that get me in trouble, and break relationships. Your opening sentence says it all.
While I still haven’t mastered my own mind, I’d like to think I’m getting better recognizing when I say “That’s because…” about people. but it comes on so fast.
When is the last time you were cut off in traffic and your very first thought was: “I hope they’re not rushing someone to the hospital.”
One of my favorite books tells us to “interrogate reality” (fierce conversations). I try to do this with every conversation. Dig deeper. Who knows what riches you can find, if you don’t assume you already know what is there.
Thanks Dan for another great post!
I also encourage readers to read a little about the phenomenon, Fundamental Attribution Error, which basically refers to the (unfortunately) natural tendency for us to attribute others’ untoward behavior to some innate, enduring flaw of theirs, while attributing our occasional bad behavior and transgressions to situational factors–e.g. “I know I was a bit harsh towards Jane, but I’ve got so much on my plate, I don’t have time for people who beat around the bush.”
Another useful tool that helps get me out of my negative “explanations” is a version of a question the folks at VitalSmarts use. One version I use is:
“What might cause any ‘normal,’ honorable, good person to think, feel, or act that way?”
Framing our question in that way obviously sends our internal search for an explanation in a very different direction.
Thanks again for such an interesting and helpful blog.
You hit it out of the park with this one! I love this post. This concept is one I often talk about in my presentations. Offense occurs when we assign meaning or intent to someone’s behavior without knowledge. Your first sentence says it all. While I’m still not a master over my own mind, I like to think I’m getting better at recognizing when I say “That’s because…” about someone. “That’s because…” is what gets us into trouble, and destroys relationships. The thing is it happens so fast.
When was the last time you were cut off in traffic and your first thought was “I hope they’re not rushing someone to the hospital”. That’s not my first thought, but at least my SECOND thought is now more forgiving, compassionate, and respectful.
This post touched a nerve with me as well. A couple years ago, I read about “cognitive misering,” which means that we save our high level thinking for what we deem high priority issues. That leaves time for a lot of stereotyping and low level thinking when we assess our peers and supervisors — it is just too easy to brush someone off as being one thing, when in reality, there is so much more to the person and to the story. Learning about cognitive misering has helped me to stop low level assessments and to be more compassionate and holistic when “sizing up” others.
well I get snap judgments on me everyday. used to it though. Just gets irritating and some days I just snap back (sometimes that gets me in trouble though) 😉
Great blog post as always!!! Interestingly, I was just reading the latest blog post from George Couros. In he wrote the following: “… we always need to look and try to find the good before we judge the bad.”
This really caught my eye! In Considering this quote, I find it so much more powerful than ‘there’s usually some good in everyone.’ My reasoning has to do with the timeline: look for good before judging bad. Through this sequence, we get a broader perspective on possible actions that we don’t get most likely when we let a perceived wrong control our rational thinking. It seems clear to me that looking for the good first might lead to no action or maybe only an honest dialogue.
I’m believing it reduces the likelihood of a fabricated story!!!
Good message that smacked me in the face this morning! Iâve been so aware these past two weeks of helping a couple teams understand how easy it is to victimize ourselves and villainize others without understanding our own impact on the situation, that I have fallen into the trap myself. This blog smacked in the face to say wake up. So easy to do when we are coaching teams and getting caught up in the minutia of he said she said.
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As always, a thoughtful post! Often we manufacture reasons and should rely more on discernment and listening.