As human beings, we live most of our lives around other human beings. We’re neighbors, fellow bus or subway passengers, colleagues, mutual victims of rush hour, friends, and family to hundreds if not thousands of other people. And yet, very rarely do we spend much time considering these people through any lens that doesn’t also go through us. Are they looking at me? What does he think of me? Does this person see me as competent? Do they think I’m confident? Is everyone laughing at me or with me? And because we spend so much time thinking about ourselves, how wonderfully refreshing and uplifting it is when other people think about us, too! It’s like they really get us!
This simple reality is the key to one of the most underutilized-yet-powerful win-win scenarios we could ever put ourselves in. In our dealings with other people, if we can just stop thinking of ourselves briefly- momentarily- just for a second- and consider the person on the other side of the table from us, we effectively get up, walk over, and get on their side of the table. And all of a sudden we can begin to understand each other and can actually work together toward a common goal or interest.
The beautiful thing about this strategy is that you don’t even have to be subtle or sneaky about it! I’ve frequently expressed to other people, verbatim, “I want to do my best to get on your side of the table and understand where you’re coming from and where you’re trying to go.” This has got to be the most noble sort of manipulation there is; you’re tricking people into allowing you to help them get what they want quicker, better, faster, easier than they could have on their own.
“But Jared,” someone who isn’t as wise as you might whine, “how is that win-win if it’s all about the other person getting what they want?”
That’s the other not-so-secret secret about this whole concept. For it to really, truly work, you’ve got to flat out, no exceptions, unconditionally care about the other person. If you’re thinking about how you can help them so that they’ll help you, or trying to maneuver around or through them for your own end goal, you’re thinking about it all wrong. However, when you really care about that person and what they want and need, then getting on their side of the table and understanding their motivations and their thought processes so that you can help them follows as the next logical step in the process. And when you really care about helping them get what they want, then it becomes something that you want, too. All of a sudden, you’re working together, you’re moving in the same direction, and when you reach that goal, it’s a win-win for both of you.
So, here’s to the table-hoppers who are constantly jumping from booth to booth, sitting down next to other people, and coming alongside them in the spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness. Let’s never forget that for every time we wish the person across from us would think more about what we want, there’s another person looking at us and thinking the same thing.