Here are some ideas to consider when you are struggling to connect with people at home, at work, or in your community:

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Empathy is the foundation for the outward mindset. When we take the time to understand what another person is experiencing, our perspective of them can begin to shift. Understanding and perspective are fundamental to human connection. People with an outward mindset have high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ). The best definition I have found to describe EQ is as follows: “The capacity to reason about emotions, and of emotions, to enhance thinking. It includes the abilities to accurately perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.” Let’s break this definition down.

  • Perceiving emotion is about recognizing emotions that are arising in others and understanding their meaning. Understanding and detecting one’s emotional state is another crucial component of perceiving emotions. Developing the ability to recognize the feelings of others is an essential aspect of human connection. For example, people with autism are unable to pick up visual cues from another person that offers insight as to a person’s emotional state. The narcissist also struggles with picking up the emotional signals of others because they are so obsessed with their feelings and emotions. Perception of emotions is what makes using, understanding, and managing them possible.
  • Using Emotions (according to Wikipedia) is the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem-solving. People with EQ will change activities depending on their moods to optimize performance.
  • Understanding emotions (according to Wikipedia) is the ability to comprehend emotion in language and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions. People with high EQ are like emotional ninjas thanks to their ability to discern between various emotions.
  • Managing emotions involves having the ability to leverage positive or negative emotions to achieve the desired outcome.

The outward mindset is the ultimate expression of EQ. EQ makes it about the other person, as does the outward mindset.

Consider that they are just like you.

When we harness the power of humility, grace, emotional intelligence, forgiveness, and lead with pure intent, our relationships begin to flourish. Many people have intuitively discovered this truth. We are all fundamentally the same. Consider this: genetically, every person is made up of 99.9% of the same stuff. Our bodies are made up of over 3 billion base pairs, and 99.9% are the same amongst each and all of us. Why are we obsess our differences versus living in awe of the similarities? When I was in 8th grade, I had an opportunity to interview a neighbor of mine, Ernie Jones. He said, “We all put our pants on one leg at a time.” That phrase has stuck with me all of these years, yet I often catch myself obsessing over our differences versus living in wonder & awe of how much we are alike. We are all unique but yet mostly all the same. The person you are angry, disappointed, or frustrated with has dreams and aspirations just like you. They want to be appreciated, acknowledged, validated, and justified, just like you. To see people requires that we recognize that their hopes, dreams, and desires take nothing away from us. We should seek to serve them and enhance their lives in a way that helps them succeed. The outward mindset allows us to see people as people. It allows us to connect a deeper level with family, friends, coworkers, and strangers. The person on the sidewalk asking for spare change is just like us. They are a person with dreams and aspirations. The least we can do is recognize that they are human. Our enemies are human. Our competitors are human. Significant cultural differences make it difficult to acknowledge another person, but the outward mindset will establish humanity as the baseline for all of our interactions. The best way to begin to see people as people is to ask ourselves questions. Here are some questions to consider asking ourselves:

  • What are this person’s needs, fears, objectives, and challenges? When we acknowledge the needs, concerns, goals, and challenges of others, we begin to see our similarities versus our differences. Overcoming our selfish (inward) tendencies that lead us to focus on our differences is necessary for us to start seeing people as people. The inward mindset prevents us from experiencing the reality of others because acknowledging others might take away from us.
  • If you are becoming emotional about another person, ask yourself: From where are these emotions arising? Why am I feeling this way? The goal of this question is to help us determine what inside of us is causing our emotional distress. Emotional responses are almost always a result of our issues versus the issues of the other person. We see in others a reflection of ourselves, and we recoil in response. We make it about us. Anger is always about us. We project it onto others, but the reality is that it is still about us.
  • How is my heart? I realize this sounds soft, but the condition of the heart during our interactions with others will have a significant impact on how we express ourselves. If we are inwardly focused, our heart will likely be closed and self-serving. If we are outwardly focused, we are going to readily empathize with others and see them as people with needs, challenges, and objectives.

In every interaction, you are either building a relationship or eroding it. Seeing people as people requires attention and intention. You will need to offer your undivided attention to hear them and understand their needs.  You intentionally consider their objectives, challenges, and needs versus your objectives, challenges, and needs. How can I help this person, or how can I better serve this person? Seeing people as people is not weak, but a demonstration of our strength. To see takes nothing from us but adds or enhances our lives.

Who have you not been seeing because you have been focused on your needs, challenges, and objectives? How can you show up differently for that person and begin to heal the relationship?

Thanks to The Arbinger Institute for helping me learn to see people as people during The Outward Mindset Training.

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