Becoming your opponent means thinking as though your body has become that of your opponent. When you look at the world, people are apt to think that someone who has committed a robbery and has holed himself up in a house must be a strong opponent. But if you consider it from the opponent’s view, he is thinking that the whole world is against him and that there is no way of escape. The man who has holed himself up in a house is a pheasant. The man who is going in to cut him down is a hawk.
Book of Five Rings
Contrary to popular belief, there are very few irrational people out there. They are only misread, misunderstood, or not given the floor to state their case. I have called many people irrational over time. But in thinking about what Musashi says, most times, those people that I wrote off as irrational, are just thinking differently than I.
The ability to see someone else’s perspective is invaluable. In life, at work, at home.
Think about truly becoming your clients. Understanding their wants and needs and fears. Think of how much easier your job would become. Think about understanding a significant other. Understanding his or her wants and needs and fears. Think about how much better your relationship would become. Think about understanding an angry police officer. Or the guy trying to oversell you something.
It’s very calming for me when I absolutely understand the reasons that people act the way they do. Even if it’s the opposite of how I feel. Then, I don’t need to yell and scream to get my point across, because explaining the differences in where we are coming from should ease any tension. There may still be disagreement, but now the chances are increased that a good compromise can be reached.
Becoming someone else, understand another’s thoughts is not easy to do right away. The way you can start is to probe with questions. To state where you are coming from and ask where your opponent is coming from. To put it all on the table. And not just surface questions, but deeply probing questions that get all the way to the core feelings of why people are acting or reacting the way they do. There are only so many core feelings, anger, love, fear, alone, happy, connected, guilt, shame.
When you can dig down and identify those core feelings you can create a winning solution. When you do that enough times, and you really listen and really pay attention, you won’t have to guess how someone else feels. You will be able to truly walk in their shoes. You will be able to truly become them. Creating winning solutions to problems before the exist.
This isn’t a skill that’s a luxury to have. It’s mandatory. Because when I can only see my own perspective, I am the irrational one.
The man holed up in the house is a pheasant because he can only see this from his own eyes. The man who goes in is a hawk, because he knows exactly what the pheasant is thinking and can cut him down as a result of that. Pheasants are bred to be shot. Hawks are born to soar.