We learn by asking new questions of our experience. But if that is indeed how we learn, we are bound to miss the things about which we do not ask. A different way of learning is to set ourselves up to experience situations with a greater openness than we ordinarily do to witness familiar things as though for the first time.
William Blake refers to this as cleansing “the doors of perception.” If learning is about doing this difficult work: taking reality out of its comfortable context and perceiving it without interferences, and if we agree that this work is best done in community, then the perception we strive to cleanse is the perception of the other. We need to be able to see other individuals on their own terms.
To do this we must be willing and able to let other people be rather than wanting to evaluate and to change them. How do we become able to take such a Zen, receptive, non-interfering attitude?
We can try to hold lightly our categories of interpretations, expectations, biases, fears, and needs; we can force them out of the way so we can simply listen and wait openly, patiently, and even wonderingly for the other to disclose itself in its own way.
I am reminded of the Herman Hesse quote: “When someone is seeking it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking …”
When we are able to do this, we are truly in touch with the other, because we finally manage to see both them and their world from their point of view.
If we manage to use our feelings and our experience to enter into another person’s experience, to truly perceive their way of being in the world, then we have achieved the kind of openness that will – as if by magic – increase that person’s sense of autonomy. This will also reinforce their desire and ability to communicate honestly about themselves.
In doing this, we have used ourselves as an instrument of change and we can make Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” come alive in a very practical, hard-impact and simple way.
What would it be possible is you were able to illuminate your own “blind spots”?
Adriano understands how to increase your returns on leadership. He works with professionals in world-class organizations that include Philip Morris, Microsoft, the World Bank, Johns Hopkins University, the US Marine Corps, the State Department and NASA. A skilled experiential educator with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of ParticipAction Consulting, Inc., a firm committed to help clients redefine change, collaboration and power in their organizations. He co-authored "Teachable Moments of Leadership" with Jill Hufnagel in 2016, on a learning methodology that gets results by going from PowerPoint to …powerful!