The expression “that’s just the tip of the iceberg” can mean that we acknowledge what we see above the water, and there’s more below the surface that has yet to be revealed. It’s very difficult to remember that when we are judging, assessing, and sizing people up.
We take what we see and create interpretations and perceptions about people based on our beliefs, values, and history. We do it in a split second. Then we respond to that person according to our perception. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however, what if we were willing to be curious enough to explore what’s below the surface with our fellow human beings?
This would require an understanding that what we think of others isn’t the whole truth. Once we can remember that, we have access to wondering what people are actually saying and meaning. The more I remember to slow down and check my assumptions with someone, I realize there’s always more to the story and I have it wrong…a lot! I’m always so amazed because I feel I am so right about what I perceive as the truth. It’s very humbling for me to keep myself in check. It is a challenge in this very fast paced world. If I’m not careful I will crash into an unavoidable conflict because of my misinterpretations.
When I take the time to navigate my perceptions, I find I spend less time resolving misunderstandings and I build better relationships along the way. I also have to remember it’s my job to be clear in what I’m saying and meaning so I don’t leave people guessing or set myself up to be misunderstood.
So, here’s the practice…slow down…be curious about your interpretations…and check your assumptions with people.
If only the captain of the Titanic remembered this…
Author’s Note: This post was adapted from its original publication on Momentum Consulting.