WYSIWYG: Who is the You?

July 6th, 2018

When someone says “What You See Is What You Get”, they are saying “I’m being upfront and open.”  As they are proclaiming being transparent, they are also say it’s up to you to believe them or not.

Surprise!It’s you!

While no truer words were every spoken, I think the profoundness (and actuality) of the phrase WYSISWG is often missed. We think it’s about the speaker, when, upon closer examination, it’s about the listener. While the speaker is referring to their own openness, ironically, the “you” in the phrase is not referring to the speaker, but to the listener.  The listener is the you in WYSISWG . The listener, not the speaker, is the one who determines how the speaker is seen.

If the listener interprets what’s being said as arrogance, righteousness, untrustworthiness, then that’s what the listener (the “you”) gets. If the listener interprets kindness and vulnerability, that’s what the listener gets, that’s how the speaker shows up. What the listener interprets is what the listener gets. Who the speaker is being, at least in terms of how they are perceived by the listener, is determined by the listener.

Power of the listener

What is so important about understanding the perception and power of the listener?  It matters if you are committed to creating relationships which can achieve big goals, which can rebound quickly when things go array, which can align, collaborate and leverage opportunities.

Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, openness, reliability and trustworthiness are in the ear (perception) of the listener.  It’s not what is said, it’s about what is heard. What’s heard depends on what the listener is listening to.  Is their internal conversation telling them that they should not agree with you, no matter what you say? Is their internal conversation telling them “be careful, be wary”? Do they even know they are listening to an internal conversation that might be limiting how they listen to you?

To influence the listener

If we recognize the power of what’s heard by the listener, then, when we speak, our attention will be on  how our words land on the listener.  To shift our attention from what we say to how our words are heard, here are some essential elements:

  • Be clear about your intended outcome for the conversation. (If it is to “be right; put them in their place”, don’t even open your mouth.)
  • Share the outcome you desire and ask what they hear. Ask if they can support the outcome being realized. If not, dialogue to arrive at a mutually acceptable outcome.
  • During the conversation, check in with each other periodically. Ask what’s been heard and understood. Ask to learn, not to debate. Share what you are understanding, learning.
  • End by summarizing any commitments and next steps.

Even if you are sure you already conduct conversations in this manner, ask people if that’s their experiencing. Knowing their perception is worth its weight in gold in your goal to influence them.

Onward, with ears and hearts ready to listen!


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