The “You” You Know
This month I’m going deep about our relationships, both good and bad, and how many times, problems in relationships have nothing to do with the other person. Rather, it’s all about us. The source of my inspiration was an article written by Philia Sophia titled “;You’ in My Head: How our uninvestigated thoughts distort our perception of the other.”
At the heart of her article, Sophia asserts that our interactions and thoughts about specific individuals are really governed by a polar view of ourselves. We are either “good” or “bad” with nothing in between. Of course, we know that nothing could be further from the truth. We are all tremendously complex individuals with wildly fluctuating motivations that change from day-to-day based upon the situation. But that doesn’t matter.
If I have a “good” impression of you, I will give you grace. In other words, my negative thoughts about that specific situation will be overridden by a “Positive Sentiment Override.” That means the opposite is, of course, true – if I believe you to be bad, even a pleasant or positive interaction with you will not be cancelled by my “bad” sentiment i.e., “Negative Sentiment Override.”
Let me explain how she pulls in another coach and author to help. Sophia turns to Byron Katie, who has come up with four simple steps to work though the emotions caused by negative sentiment override.
1- Katie recommends noticing the specific instance causing stress or anger.
2- Write down these stressful thoughts using short simple sentences.
3- Next, she encourages us to question our thoughts for their validity and their source.
4- Finally, she tells us to turn it around and find the opposites of our original thought to see the issue from the other side and if it’s still valid or if the exercise shines a different light on the matter.
I found the article and the exercise immensely transformative to the way I approach my work and personal life, especially when I encounter negative feelings about someone whom I don’t know very well. It made such an impression on my thought process, I thought exposing it here might be helpful to you, too.
First, this “new” process helps me turn the issue on its head and discover if the issue lies within me or with the other person. I’m disappointed to say that many times the issue is really me and not the individual with whom I’m feuding in my head. The new process also helped me appreciate that the people I cast in a negative light are human, with hopes and goals of their own. Seeing them as human turns the situation on its head and helps me own 50 percent (or more) of the problem.
Second, the implications for our business are enormous. To start, how many partnerships and collaborations are we missing out on because we ascribe negative sentiment to leaders of companies that could truly help our cause? The way through this digital transformation is through open collaboration with each other, and we can’t get that done by imagining the worst about key collaborators.
Lastly, the world is full of stories about rivals and fierce personal competitors who needed one small, but seminal interaction or twist of fate to turn them from mortal enemies to powerhouse professional colleagues. Could it be, that if we examine our differences through the lens of negative sentiment, that we will find our differences are rooted in our imagination and/or our own biases?
Here, I’d like to revisit two themes I’ve espoused before which seem especially relevant in the context of the information above. With the digital transformation well under way in our industry, our ability to collaborate and solve our business challenges is well within our grasp. We can work together, in the name of building a better, more digital parking experience for our customers.
Parking is unique, and I was recently reminded how befuddling our entire industry can be to “outsiders” when I met a business executive on a flight. Before I explained how complex parking is, he had no idea. Why is that important? It’s important because we take for granted how vital institutional knowledge can be in joint endeavors. This institutional knowledge of the industry allows us to skip the educational phase of the relationship and jump straight to the solution.
The bottom line is this: we are facing a change not seen before and we can solve it through collaboration, with a speed not possible from those outside our industry. I’m making a list of collaborations that would be transformative for my company, and re-examining any hesitancy caused by negative sentiment. It’s critical for our success and for the success of our industry. Hope you’ll join me in doing the same!