What if we are coming in 45 minutes late into the stories of those around us? What if we believed that there is more to them than we know?
That what has happened in their lives has shaped how they view the world, how they interact, their hopes and fears. If we approach our coworkers, family and friends with that mindset we can understand them better and more deeply, as well as being able to work better together and give them more of what they need.
Have you ever arrived late for a movie at a movie theater?
If you have, if it was less than fifteen minutes late, you probably were alright since you only missed the ads for upcoming movies. That’s just how it is these days.
But imagine coming in 45 minutes late to a movie. 45 minutes after the actual movie had started.
You’d be like “wait, who is this Frodo guy, why is he so short, and why doesn’t he just throw that ring in the river?” or “What made Darth so angry, why is breathing so heavy and why do I feel like he has some deep family issues?” or even “Wait, Matt Damon is stuck again somewhere in the universe and needs to be rescued? I think I’ve seen this before somewhere…”
You get the picture. So much is revealed in the beginning of a movie. Something tragic happens. Or there is a snapshot from a character’s past. Or a chance meeting takes place or a message is shared.
A good movie will still leave some things for you to figure out. But what is shared at the beginning often fills in a lot of the blanks of the story. If you miss it, you will be led to figure the story out on your own. You’ll draw conclusions about characters or their decisions. You’ll falsely assume things to be true or not based on your limited knowledge. And often you’ll be wrong.
With a movie there’s no major implications here, other than you peppering the people who are watching with you with all kinds of questions that would have been answered if you hadn’t been late!
But with people, it’s a much different story.
And yet this happens all the time we meet someone new.
Every time our paths cross another’s, we’re coming into their life 45 minutes late. And even if we’ve been friends forever, there are still details about their past that we may never know but that have shaped who they are.
It’s not that we need to know every detail of everyone we meet. But acknowledging that we’re coming in late to their story allows us to be aware that their past has in part made them into who they are now. And by past, this could even mean what happened this morning before they left for work.
When you think about those you rub shoulders with every day, whether your peers or team members, the more you can view them and their stories in this way, the more it can help you have more compassion and understanding as well as a vision for their potential as well.
Instead of jumping to conclusions about their behavior or how they missed the mark, consider asking them more about what led to that. If they feel that you are genuine and can trust you, you can begin to fill in more blanks of the story. And THAT is when you can begin to make a deeper connection, see how you can help them and what they need from you to perform at their best.
All you need to remember is this one phrase: “I don’t know their whole story”.
This doesn’t mean that even after you dig deeper and try to help them that they might not still make bad decisions or refuse to do things that are needed to get where you need them to be. Tough decisions and conversations are still bound to happen.
But you have a better chance to connect with and hang onto those teammates who are the types of people you want in your organization.
That person who perhaps is on your mind as you listen to this? Why not take some time this week to reach out to them, dig deeper and let them fill in more of their story to you.
As for Frodo and the ring, don’t worry. You’ll fill in all those blanks you missed if you’ve got another 8 hours on your hands. Matt Damon though? Might have to just let that guy go…