In his excellent book, Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads: Tools and Techniques for Profitable Persuasion, Roy H. Williams relates the oft-told story of the six blind men of Indostan who experienced an elephant from different parts of its body and, naturally, from their individual viewpoints, came to six different conclusions regarding the essence of said pachyderm.
You may have heard this one before. In my opinion, it’s quite interesting. The man who felt the broadside proclaimed the elephant to be like a wall. The one feeling the tusk disagreed heartily, opining an elephant to be like a spear. The third, feeling the trunk, thought they were both crazy and said an elephant is obviously like a snake. The other three, of course, from their points of view, had their own opinions.
Williams tells us that, “In perceptual reality, each of the men was correct. ”
According to the author, “I tell this story because most efforts at human persuasion are little more than one blind man urging another blind man to ‘see’ the elephant as he does.”
What a profound point, and it aligns totally with a concept we’ve discussed previously; belief systems.
In other words, not only do we see the world from our own set of beliefs (all of which were handed to us from family,friends, environment, life experiences, etc.), but we assume everyone else sees the world the same exact way!
Oh, how often I’ve done that…and I’m supposed to know better. After all, I teach this stuff! 🙂
Mr. Williams continues, “Have you ever paused to consider that your family, your friends, your co-workers, and your customers live in their own private, perceptual realities? Instead of expecting them all to see the elephant as you do, why not try to see what they’re seeing? If you’re patient, you will eventually see enough of the elephant from different perspective to finally make sense of it all.”
“And then”, he concludes, “you’ll have something to say that will really be worth hearing.”
Wow – what a great point!
Suggested practice exercise: for the next week, let’s be “consciously aware”, every second possible, of doing our best to “see the elephant” from the other’s point of view. Will it be easy? No, but we’ll learn a lot about the other person and their belief system…not to mention a lot about ourselves, and our belief system; even those things about it which hold us back and keep us from being as effective as we can be.
Let me know your results and epiphanies. I can’t wait to see what mine are.