When a trout, rising to a fly, gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight, which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course the situation is too tough for him.
In the same way, the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; and sometimes they are too much for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one. …. Karl A. Menninger
This little analogy jumped off the page at me while perusing a book. It cleverly explains the difficulty of trying to understand another’s perspective. After all, if you are a free fish watching one of your buddy’s splash around for no reason, you would tend to label him “a little crazy”; perhaps never realizing he was hooked on an invisible line.
We naturally view the world from our perspective and often assume that others around us see it the same way.
A while back, a participant at a workshop, shared an experience she had with a co-worker. The co-worker had lost control over a project deadline change.
The upset co-worker was “hooked” to the project deadline. In other words, he was attached to the original time frame. When the project did not fall in the time frame he wanted, he perceived things to be out of control which lead him to engage in out of control behavior.
He threw a temper tantrum and blamed the co-worker and her team for the situation. As it turns out, the coworker had no interaction on this project at all. However, she did have some good skills in dealing with upset people. She did three things:
1. She chose to remain calm.
2. She listened to the person’s concerns and explained her limited involvement on the project.
3. She brainstormed with him, and they agreed upon a course of action.
The upset individual later came back to apologize for his behavior.
This sounds simple enough but when a person comes across in an attacking manner, it is hard not to become defensive and respond in the same manner.
Imagine the outcome if the co-worker had yelled back, “It’s not my fault, and you need to get clear about who is in charge of which project!” The situation would most likely have deteriorated into the “blame game”, effectively avoiding the real issue of how to get the project completed.
The next time you encounter an upset co-worker, family member or friend, remember they are most likely caught on an invisible fishhook…meaning their reality is very different from yours.
Try using the OASIS acronym to free them from the hook!
- Observe – Stand back, observe the other person, recall times you have felt that way, and offer them some compassion.
- Acknowledge - Recognize their perspective whether you agree with it or not. “I can see you think missing the deadline is going to do irreparable damage to the project, and you feel I had something to do with this.”
- Share – This is where you can share your perspective or your reality. “In actuality, this project was not one I was assigned to work on, but I can appreciate your concerns.”
- Investigate – Ask forward thinking questions. Move the conversation into a place you have the power to do something. “What do you think needs to happen to move forward from here?”
- Solutions -Identify and create solutions and next steps.