I was in a cafe the other day. (Yes, I know many blog posts start with this statement, but it’s true). I was enjoying my late lunch when suddenly a man with a booming voice stood behind me talking to another man. All I could do was stay focused on my meal to avoid jumping in the conversation. Only the conversation was not a conversation. It was a one way diatribe of advice from a seemingly more experienced businessman to another who he perceived to be lacking. Let’s call the experienced businessman Mr Old and the other Mr New.
It seemed from the snippets of conversation flying my way, I could not help but overhear that Mr New had just opened up a business. The business required him to lease premises, hire staff, buy equipment and run the location seven days a week - a big commitment for anyone. Mr Old seemed to be in the same business, only from the way he spoke he was a master at it, had been around for a lot longer and knew everything about how to run such a business.
The reason that the exchange seemed not like a conversation was that Mr Old only asked a few questions to get some facts straight. He spent most of his time saying sentences starting with the words ‘You SHOULD….’ or ‘When I was doing this…’ ‘There’s NO WAY you can…’ ‘MATE, you just HAVE TO…’. The tone of the language was not only authoritative but verging on dictatorial. The compliant Mr. New barely spoke. When he did I could barely hear him, which by now I was keen to do. Whilst I was not choosing to listen, I could not help it and was in awe that this exchange even occurred publicly right next to me.
Manage how you tell
So why am I writing about this in the context of intuition at work? Well it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to share what you know. When you have been around for awhile you accumulate experience and knowledge. When you work with intuition you pick up a lot more and naturally want to help people by sharing. When we are inclined to help, it is in our human nature to do so.
It takes awareness then practice to get to a place where you naturally step back and remember to consider the other person also has their own valid internal experience, knowing and perspective. What is interesting is you can connect to your intuition to know when to share, step in, contribute. By developing your ability to sense a situation you can walk the fine line of coach / mentor. By listening to the cues that come up you can find a balance of respect and also be the recipient of learning and insight.
The key here is to consider a few guidelines of engagement. Sharing what you know requires an invitation to do so. Telling people what you think requires invitation to do so. The trap many of us fall into is that we assume that our title, status, age, etc implies we have the right to tell others what to do.
So how do you do this? Simply ask. Sometimes it can be as easy as saying ‘I notice that….I have had a similar experience….At this time would sharing my experience help you?”
Or before making an assumption that someone does not know what you know ASK! How easy is it to say something like ‘So have you done this before? What are your ideas, thoughts about this? How would you approach this situation?’
Now this sounds like coaching, right? It is. But the difference is that when you add intuition into the mix is you ask questions more directly and you focus more on what matters. Before I would ask these open questions I would check in with my own sense of the situation. Then I would ask more specific questions that might get the person I am talking with to share. When we get to a point that seems like it’s of value to the other person for me to share I will offer this up as per above. A simple exchange, done with respect, can create a deeper knowing and sharing of inner wisdom from both sides.
So let’s replay the scene out from above.
Mr Old runs into Mr New.
Mr Old asks Mr New how he is doing.
Mr New starts to share about his business venture and where it is at.
Mr Old senses that Mr New may be missing out on a few critical risk management aspects based on his own experience. Mr Old also senses that Mr New is a bit nervous and unsure about the commitment. Mr Old doesn’t know why but just feels it inside and the thought pops into his head. He makes note of this and parks the thought aside while he focuses on listening to Mr New.
Mr New feels good for being able to share with Mr Old and appreciates the respect and interest Mr Old shows in listening to him.
Mr Old then thanks Mr New for sharing. Mr Old then asks a more specific question about one of the risk areas he has concerns about. Mr Old doesn’t say anything about his own experience at this time.
Mr New says he has actually considered this risk but does not know how to handle it so he’s putting aside the problem in the too hard basket.
Mr Old says he can relate. He says he’s had a similar experience. He asks Mr New if he would be interested in hearing him share more about Mr Old's experience.
Mr New, feeling respected and equal in the exchange says yes.
The conversation goes now back more to Mr Old. But Mr Old is mindful of the sense of nervousness he picked up. So instead of launching into a big story showing how much he knows he carefully shares his story and checks in along the way to see if Mr New understands.
Mr Old doesn’t just tell his story. He asks at the end whether the information he shared has been helpful. He also asks if there are other questions.
Then before finishing he embeds in the story a sharing of how he felt nervous and unsure about his commitment when he started out. Mr Old tells his story in a way that allows Mr New to see that this more experienced man he put on a pedestal is in fact just like him, only different in perspective, experience and knowing.
Lastly Mr Old says how exciting it must be to be in Mr News situation. He also can sense that Mr New has an innovative approach and is doing things better because he can. Mr Old asks if Mr New is willing to share some of his insights. Mr Old is in fact learning from the the wisdom of Mr New.
Mr New feels better. For his intuitive sense told him that Mr Old might have a lot to share and it would be worth hearing from him. Mr Old is happy as he tapped into insights and expanded his perspective to help go forth in his own work.
They both walk away not seeing each other as competitors but as colleagues on similar paths but with different ways. Oh and they didn't interrupt anyone eating lunch in a cafe. Instead they held a positive two way conversation discretely shared in a place of comfort.
Over to you
So I wonder. Are you Mr/Mrs Old or Mr/Mrs New? Well we all are both, it just depends on the situation, right? So in terms of your experience when are you like the characters in the first version of the scene and when like the characters in the second part of the scene.
From above where do you see intuition coming into the mix? How does it help? What can you do differently going forward in your conversations at work?
I am curious.