October 3, 2019 ~ 3 min read

Perspective is Priceless

Weekly TipsSpeakingWritingListening

Have you ever tried to convince someone of something and they looked at you like you were crazy?

Or had someone try to explain something to you that was so full of buzz words that you couldn't understand a word they were saying?

The problem is one of perspective.

Everyone has their own perspective

Whenever you are listening to someone, your understanding of them is filtered through your own perspective, formed of your experiences, knowledge, and goals.

The simplest element of this is purely around understanding words and acronyms. If you're a web developer, you probably know what a 'server' is, and you might have opinions on things like 'LAMP' or the 'JAMStack'.

If you're not in web development, you probably have NO IDEA what those things are. That's normal.

And if someone were to come to you talking about those things, you'd probably quickly tune out.

But if you want to communicate, you need to find a way to connect what we want to say to that person's perspective.

Starting from context

If for some reason I wanted to make you care about 'JAMStack', I'd have to start from where you are.

For example, if you were a sales executive, I might start from your goals.

"You know how it's really important for clients to be able to learn about our business so they will buy. And you know how when they go to our website, it's important that it be fast and reliable so they're able to do that learning. Well there's an approach we want to use to build that website so that it will be super fast and reliable that is called the 'JAMStack'. Let me tell you a little bit about it..."

By starting from the listener's perspective and showing them how what you want to tell them connects to their goals and experiences, you make yourself relevant to them and make them want to listen.

To better speak, first better listen

The implication of this is that if you want to be able to speak to someone in a way that they can hear, you first need to understand who they are and where they're coming from.

How? By asking questions and listening.

Ask them about their goals, their needs, and their values. Ask them about whatever will give you a better mental model for who they are.

And it may be you already know a lot about them. If you're writing or speaking to an audience of web developers, you may be able to assume knowledge of things like 'JAMStack'.

But most of us over-assume, and start speaking when we probably should still be listening.

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Kevin Ball

Hi, I'm Kevin Ball (alias KBall). I'm a software engineer turned trainer and coach focused on communication and leadership skills. You can follow me on Twitter, or check out my software-focused work at Zendev.com.