The Hidden Secret to Excelling at Professional Relationships Part I

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Most of us are pretty good at relationships – otherwise, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Pretty much anything in the professional world requires that we interact with others. The question then becomes: How do we go from good to great?

From Good to Great

There are innumerous books written about this subject, giving advice about how to do this. You have probably read several of them. The top books on this topic have titles such as, “Crucial Conversations” or the classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. What all of these books and other books have in common is a focus on the external techniques, tactics, and processes that allow us to be effective in interacting with others in particular contexts. You can make a lot of headway reading these books – most of you probably significantly upped your game in one way or another (assuming you had a process for implementing the learning). I am going to argue that while these skills are important they will only take you so far. If you really want to master interpersonal communications, you have to address your blind spots.

The Things You Don’t Know You Don’t Know

Take a moment and think about something you know you don’t know? No. I actually want you to do this exercise. Name 2 things you know you don’t know. Most people say something like: I know I don’t know how to speak Russian, or I know I don’t know the product demand for our new product, or I know I don’t know how Quantum Theory really works.

Now think of something you don’t know that you don’t know. It is worth restating that and paying careful attention to the detailed difference: Things I KNOW I don’t know was the first exercise. Things I DON’T KNOW, I don’t know is the second exercise. Go ahead a take a few moments to think this through. Of course, you cannot name something you don’t know you don’t know because you don’t know it. Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, popularized this idea during the discussion of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns). The secret to becoming a master at interpersonal communication lies in discovering you blind spots or the things about yourself you don’t know you don’t know. This is a concept that is important to understand if you want to move from good to great in the arena of interpersonal relationships. There are things so far outside of your awareness about how you communicate that you don’t even know what question to ask to get to them. They simply are not in your universe of possibilities. It is in discovering these blind spots that you will take your game to the next level.

Next week I will cover a model that will help you really understand the nuances and differences between different types of blind spots and how it takes different types of concerted learning to address each variety of blind spot.

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