Don’t Project (Truby Tip about Other-Centered Communication)

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Last Updated on July 15, 2024 by Bill Truby

Avoid a common leadership pitfall – don’t project your assumptions. Discover how a young manager’s story reveals the importance of other-centered communication. Learn how embracing this approach can lead to more effective and empathetic interactions in the workplace.

Video Transcript:

I have a story for you. And inside this story is an amazing lesson – a powerful lesson that most people aren’t aware of. And I want to tell you about it.

There was a young woman in a small company who was a manager of a certain department. This company was small, and it was very popular in the community, and they were experiencing a ton of stress.

The owner and the senior manager were both incredibly stressed.

This manager, this manager of the department, this young woman, I’ll call her Jane. Now, Jane was wanting something different, and she went to the owner and the senior manager and said, “I really want to do something different. So I want to give you my two weeks’ notice.”

Now, this woman was so valued. These two people, the owner and the senior manager wanted to save her. So you know what they did? They said she’s got to be overwhelmed. She’s got to be stressed. Let’s figure out ways to reduce her stress. And they did.

They came up with all kinds of ways. And they got me involved and told me that she was stressed. Told me that she needed some release and relief, and to maybe make things different in the context of her role. So it wasn’t so stressful.

So they asked me to talk to her in a meeting with them present, and I did. But I want to always find out the motivation behind the decision.

So I asked her what was going on, and I asked a bunch of different questions, and I learned something that they were shocked about. She wasn’t stressed.

She was at an age where she had a career that she started, and it got diverted into doing the work that she was doing for this company. And she wanted to move on in life to this career that she wanted to do since she was young. A whole different situation and a whole different solution.

When they learned that, said, oh my Jane, we want to support you in that. We are not a company that tries to hold on to people. We want to support people in their dreams. So let’s figure out how we can segue into you doing your new career, maybe even working part-time, and certainly want to pick your brain before you leave so that we can maximize the training that needs to be done to someone who replaces your job.

That’s the story, and it ended up really well. She actually is in the process right now. This just happened. She is in the process right now, figuring out how she could do both so that they can have a win-win situation.

But what’s the lesson? What’s the problem?

The problem is this… we constantly project onto others what we assume they mean, or we assume that they’re feeling.

It’s a classic, classic basic issue that happens in psychology. We project onto others what we think, what we feel, our past, our experiences.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ve learned that I speak about other-centeredness all the time. It’s so important in communication, in leading, in managing, even with customers and clients, to be other-centered in perspective.

But you can’t be other-centered when you’re stuck in projection.

How do you prevent it?

You ask questions. That’s all I did.

I started asking questions – open-ended questions. Tell me more about what you’re wanting. Is it to release stress? She said, no, that’s not it. I said. What is it? She said, I want a career and I want to get back to the career that I had planned for my life.

Light bulb. Now we knew where the situation was and we had a whole different conversation.

Think about this as you lead, as you manage, as you live life. Watch how many times you project onto others. Assuming they mean something, assuming that they are feeling a certain way when it’s just coming from your own mind.

How do you prevent it?

The power of the question. Others-centered questions. Tell me more about… Give me more information about… how do you feel about…

Ask questions and you’ll get what they’re talking about. Then you can maximize your ability to be other-centered.

Bill Truby

Founder and President of Truby Achievements