Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Communication Parable - Which Side of the Door Are You On?

Some 18 years ago my wife and I rented a small house directly on the beach at Pawleys Island SC for a week. We had a spectacular time. Unfortunately the house was destroyed the next year in a hurricane and never rebuilt. That house has become our parable for communication. When we are at a difference of issues, opinions and facts, one of us calls for a time out. And one asks the other, "Which side of the door are you on?"

Here is what happened.

We were discussing the happy memories of the Pawleys Island trip. When we started talking about the layout of the inside of the house we had totally different memories of what was in it and where things were. We both were convinced we were correct.

What to do?

I suggested we each take a piece of paper and draw the layout of the house as we saw it. The result: we both drew the same layout precisely. I was viewing the house from inside and my wife was viewing it from outside the front door.

Problem solved. Communication open. the barrier was down and we gained a new opportunity to communicate. I cannot say how often we have said to each other, which side of the door are you on?

There are times with communication in families and in the workplace when we have to ask, which side of the door are you on?

The door can be a barrier for communication, trust, clarity, enlightenment, opportunities, closure and moving on. Breaking down the barrier opens...well, other doors.

When you reach an impasse with a family member or a colleague, ask yourself if you could be looking at the exact same thing but from different sides of a door, a barrier. Use the opportunity to ask the other if it is possible you are looking at the same thing but from the other side of a door.

I do not want to simplify communication as only one door, one barrier. There can be many barriers and opportunities that are quite complex from life experiences, education, opinions (that can become beliefs or facts for one or both of you), age, race, nationality, gender, disability, religion, age and so on.

But I do want to make available a possible solution to some communication breakdowns that may be easily and quietly fixed. Which side of the door are you on?

Try it.

I hope you have the results my wife and I have found in many contexts: trust, clarity, enlightenment, opportunities, closure and moving on. Of course we increased our love also but that is our story.

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