Once, when I lived in Australia, I saw a picture of the earth from space and was instantly disoriented. I knew it was Earth. We’ve all seen these iconic pictures many times – the ones that make us realize how small we are in the scheme of things, how beautiful our planet is, and how, in the grand view, we actually have a lot in common because we all call Earth our home.
But something about this image made my brain bend.
After several minutes, understanding slowly oozed into my consciousness in a viscous blob and made its way to the surface: this is what earth looks like from the Australian point of view.
Up until that moment, my entire experience of earth from space was a picture of North America or, at best, North and South America. To me, this is what Earth looked like from space. I’m embarrassed to say it never occurred to me there was another perspective – until it was staring me in the face.
After three and a half years of brain-bending experiences living in the Middle East and Australia, I returned to the States more likely to anticipate other perspectives before they hit me in the face. They don’t always come from a different language, accent or style of dress, although those can certainly be clues. Sometimes a different perspective lives in the person across the street, or two cubicles down.
Our job, in communicating, is to be open to the possibility that someone has a different perspective, anticipate what that might be, and connect in a way that demonstrates our common humanity.
In my workshops I always say: The ideal communication takes place at the intersection of your needs and wants, and my needs and wants. You have something to say, but you need to make it matter to me, because the place that we connect creates success for all of us – regardless of your view of the earth.