“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.” Bruce Lee*
Being able to bend, be flexible and open minded isn’t as natural for us as it is for the bamboo or willow tree. We are hard wired to make judgements about what’s good and bad, safe and unsafe, right and wrong.
- Do people tell you that you are stuck firm and unbending in your decisions and points of view?
- Are you deeply rooted in your core ideas, but able to bend your ways of doing things and thinking about things?
- Perhaps you are afraid that you bend too much, or are too accommodating?
You may even have been rewarded for the fast judgements that you have made in the past through promotion for example, or the avoidance of a bad experience.
So how then do we learn to bend?
1. Disrupt your habits
I recently returned from a family holiday. We rented an apartment and by night two we found that we all had our set seats on the sofas, this was nothing we had agreed or planned, we just fell into a habit very quickly of sitting in the same positions.
People are creatures of habit. One of the easiest ways to become more open-minded is to change up some of your routines.
Meet new people, visit new places, research information or ideas, attend events on topics that you don’t know about or that look at topics that you do know about in new ways.
This can help us to take a new perspective. To approach things from a different angle or better understand issues and people around us.
This takes practice – the longer we have been in our own routines, the less open we are to new suggestions and ideas. Consider reading news from a different source, e.g. Al Jezeera provides news, analysis from the Middle East & worldwide.
Avoid exclusively checking social media that reinforces your own personal values or feelings or look for opportunities to meet and work with new people. By slowly integrating new things into your routine now, you are preparing yourself to be more willing to consider or accept novel ideas from others in the future.
2. Seek the Truth
For a variety of reasons, people often dislike or are uncomfortable providing truthful feedback.
Sometimes it’s because individuals may fear negative repercussions, especially if you are in a position of power, other times people may worry that there’ll be an emotional outburst of anger or tears and they won’t know how to deal with it.
Nevertheless, still ask for it on a regular basis, such as when you’ve just completed a project or task, or when you’ve introduced a new change. As long as you react well to the feedback, respectfully and thoughtfully people will come to recognise that their input is wanted and valued.
Seek first to understand before being understood is the name of the game here.
There have been situations when I have felt that I have bent too much, in fact I’ve actually been on the verge of breaking.
Signs to look out for to identify if you are bending too much:
- The decision goes against core values: So, if I am all about fairness and my boss asks me to not give a member of my team a bonus when everyone else is getting one and they’ve worked easily as hard, it wouldn’t be good for me to bend on this.
- You find yourself becoming too easily swayed: If you’re the person that can be counted on to be influenced, your child always comes to you to ask if they can go to the all-night party or your colleagues know that the decision they get from you will be a product of the last conversation you’ve had.
- When the short-term decision is easy, but the long-term impact is bad: You put off having the difficult conversation with your partner, child or colleague when you know the longer you leave it the more difficult it will be.
What tips do you have for bending, being flexible and open minded in these times of change, while also not bending too much?
This is from a series of blogs on How to be a Changemaker.
Here are some further resources:
Webinar: Living with Change [40 mins]
Resources: Feedback Skills
Blog: 18 Tips to Improve your Communication Skills
Webinar – Tackling to Difficult Conversations
E-Book – The 12 Essential Qualities of Good Leaders
*a Hong Kong-American actor, director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, and philosopher. … He is often credited with helping to change the way Asians were presented in American films.