No, this is not some oblique reference to beginning a training plan for next year’s London Marathon (although not a bad start!), nor is it a reminder of the old gag about walking a mile in my shoes and you’ll end up at a bar, and I’ll have no shoes.
It’s about really trying to figure out how the other side in any walk of life see things and wondering if that might change or adapt the way we deal with them.
Two media programs this last week have highlighted the potential benefits of a philosophy of understanding and the implications to us all.
The first is a radio series called Across the Red Line. In it, two protagonists are asked to step into the opposing view they would normally take and argue the case for the exact opposite of what they would normally believe. Fascinating.
The second is a TV show inviting children from predominately white schools to attend schools that are predominately full of Asian kids, and vice versa. The Great British School Swap follows 12 year eight and year nine pupils from Saltley Academy, a secondary school in Birmingham where fewer than one per cent of the children are white British, and 12 pupils from Tamworth Enterprise College, as they take turns spending a week in each other’s schools.
Tamworth headteacher Simon Turney was instrumental in persuading parents to get involved. He said he was well aware of the potential pitfalls of allowing the cameras into school and the artificial nature of so doing, but felt it was a vital experience for his pupils.
Nearly one year on and many of the pupils have remained friends, despite going back to their respective schools. They stay in touch on Snapchat and Instagram talking about the interests they discovered.
“You run the risk of allowing children to get to ages of 17 or 18 without having had the opportunity to understand different cultures and religions,” Simon Turney says. “If we don’t do any of that work how do the children forge those friendships and relationships themselves?”
The truth of the matter is that we regularly find ourselves on different sides of an issue, be that commercially, culturally or emotionally. Spending time trying to understand how the other side sees things may significantly help us to negotiate a way through these inevitable conflicts.
Invest the time in doing that and maybe everyone benefits.
A fact that our Negotiation Capability Survey reveals is that most people are unconvinced that their relationships are improved by the negotiation process. Maybe spending a bit more time in discovery trying to understand how the other side sees the world may help.