How one experience - and multiple stories - can lift your communication game

As you go about your day, it's easy to assume the people around you are having the same experience as you in each situation you encounter. I was reminded this week that's simply not the case.

I caught up with two colleagues for drinks; professional women I didn't know well. We chatted over happy hour cocktails, and the conversation for some reason turned to the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

It was fascinating that all three of us had specific experience at those Olympics - but those experiences were very different.

One had the task of wrangling the 2000 musicians who accompanied the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony. She painted an amazing picture of the master conductor, harnessed into a cherry picker, coordinating the music high above the Olympic stadium as three separate bands played music tailor-made for each country.

It took 52 buses and five semi-trailers to transport the musicians and instruments to the stadium from their rehearsal space at Bathurst, west of Sydney. 

My second colleague, a French-speaking Canadian, had been minder to the team from the Republic of the Congo - a handful of athletes and officials. She was their shadow; living in the Olympic village and mixing it with high profile athletes from around the world. When Muhammed Ali visited the athletes’ village he noticed her and called her over. She got to speak to him and hold his hand.

When she went to say good-bye to her athletes at the airport, one was missing. He’d decided to stay in Australia off the grid - she got calls from the federal police for a long time afterwards asking if she’d had any contact from him.

My experience was different again, as an announcer at the hockey stadium. I got my mouth around some tongue-twister names as I introduced the athletes and called the highlights of the games in front of more than 20,000 people.

It struck the three of us that while we had a shared experience, the details were vastly different. It's interesting to remember this and apply it to your daily conversations and interactions.

When you’re having a discussion with an individual or group, you’ll take your communication to a new level if you stay aware that everyone in that interaction will see it differently, based on their individual experience.

You might be in the same room, but you could be globes apart when it comes to interpreting the message. Keep that in mind and you’ll build better connections,  get more collaboration and your communication experiences will be richer.

Outstanding communicators know the world doesn’t look the same for everyone. To truly be  effective, make the encounter about them - from their viewpoint - not about you.  Your reality is your own construct and the same applies to everyone else.

How can you bring this awareness to your next conversation or meeting? Take a broader view of the perspectives of others, and you'll get enhanced results.

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