I have had a challenging time with my left eye over the last fourteen months. It started with a torn retina that became a detached retina, which was immediately operated on, until finally a cataract developed in my left lens as a result of the retina surgery.
For over a year my vision has been impaired. The cataract, first diagnosed in March, developed so fast that almost every fifteen days I could tell of negative changes in my vision.
The photo of me was taken six days after cataract surgery. You probably could not tell that I had surgery by looking at my eye, even close up. You might notice me staggering occasionally or reaching for something and missing.
These changes had a big impact on my depth perception, which in turn impacted my balance. As I lost more and more of the vision in my left eye, I was left only being able to see smudges of color with my left eye.
The Inside & The Outside Are Different
Thankfully, I can see shapes and colors once again with my left eye. Due to damage to my retina, I’ll likely never regain full vision, but with a new eye glass prescription I hope to be able to see much more than I have for the last year. With my vision stabilized, my brain will once again recover my depth perception and balance.
What does this have to do with you? Most of the time, we judge people by what we see on the outside. We look at the way they walk, talk, interact, appear to us, and a myriad of other “clues” which we assume tell us what is going on for the other person.
You Have To Ask & Listen
In my case, there were few, if any clues, about what I was experiencing by observing me from the outside. The only way to know was to ask me and then listen to my answer.
To really hear what someone tells us about what they are experiencing, we need to deeply listen to what they are saying. This includes the emotional content of what they are prepared to share with us. People only share their feelings to the point that they feel that we have been vulnerable with them.
Part of my sharing my story about what has been happening inside me with my eye and surgeries, is so that you can know that it has been scary, uncomfortable, required me to let go the outcome and trust the process, while also acknowledging to myself and others the massive impact my lost eye sight has had on my energy levels and perception of the world.
The Group Dynamic
In team settings, we often only know our coworkers by their work context. This is not enough to build the trust that is needed to truly allow other people to share what is going on inside for them.
You too can be vulnerable. Find group settings where you and your team can do one of these exercises to really get to know the true person you are and those you work with:
- Paper Bag – Ask team members to bring a paper lunch bag filled with three things from home that represent important aspects of their life. Go around the table getting each person to pull each thing from their bag one at a time and tell a story about why each is important to them.
- Life Line – Ask each team member to create a graph and using two colors go as far back as they remember marking their satisfaction over time with personal and work/school experiences (highs and lows) in their life (this should take five minutes or less). When you are all together, get each person to review their lifeline, taking at least twenty minutes to describe some of their personal and work/school experiences and why they are important to them.
Trust Starts With Vulnerability
The exercises above take time, because being vulnerable and building trust takes time. If you want to create high performing teams, you have to create massive trust between team members. Then you can ask each other what you really think and are feeling about issues and get the inside story instead of just outside appearances.