How a day at the museum taught me a valuable lesson

When I was little I remember visiting the Museum of Natural History in London. It was an incredible experience for me and I hoped one day to return, perhaps with my children. Sure enough, when my eldest son reached the age of 7, we arranged to go too, a real father-son thing! We went on the train, to make a real journey of it, and when we arrived at the museum we did the lot – the blue whale in the main hall, the dinosaurs, the reptiles, the creepy crawlies and the monkeys. It took us the best part of a day, and on the way home I quizzed him about the highlights of his trip. “Of all the things you’ve seen and done today…from the blue whale to the T-rex and the scorpions and spiders…what the best part?” His response…? “The Maltesers you bought me in the shop.” I ASK YOU!

In hindsight, I realised I’d really taken the trip for me, not him. Oh I think he did enjoy it but in some respects I’d put my values on him. We went there because it was important to me.

I find this interesting as it’s something we do all the time in business. We expect our audience to think like us, to find the same things important, to see the world as we do, to be interested in what we’re interested in. But you know what? They’ve got their own agenda!

One of our biggest challenges in business is to think like the other person, to inhabit their world, not ours. To occupy their shoes. Only then can we start to understand them and find ways to help them. There’s no point offering aspirins if they’ve not got a headache!

As Dr Stephen Covey puts it in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “First seek to understand, then seek to be understood.”

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