Poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) wrote about “six men of Indostan, to learning much inclined, who went to see the elephant (though all of them were blind), that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.”
He explains that the first man approached the elephant and said, “The elephant is like a wall”. The second man, feeling the tusk said, “No, it feels like a spear!” The third man approached the animal, and with the squirming trunk in his hands proclaimed, “What are you talking about? The elephant is like a snake!” The fourth man, feeling the elephant’s knee said, “It is clear that the elephant is like a tree.” The fifth man was touching the elephant’s ear. He shouted, “The elephant is just like a fan!” The sixth man, holding the elephant’s tail said, “Have you all gone crazy? The elephant is like a rope!”
Each man was completely convinced that all of the others were wrong, when in fact, they were all correct.
How many times do we look at an issue through our own lens and completely believe the way we view the situation is right, and the way others view it is wrong? When you think about it, we all see the world through our own filters. Our thinking is so natural to us that it seems impossible to view the situation any other way.
The next time you are absolutely convinced you are right, try to take a step back and look at the elephant from different angle. If you’re struggling to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, try using the following questions to get the ball rolling.
- What are you concerned about?
- What is your goal?
- What problem are we trying to solve?
- What is the ideal solution for you?
- What will happen if we don’t resolve this?
- What is keeping you from agreeing?
- What am I not understanding?
- Will you help me understand the real issue?