It happens often—too often. We know we should gather some opinions. We want to share investment in a schedule, strategy, or program. It can be in a family, church, community, or organization. We ask, “What do you think?” and let people express themselves. Often, those thoughts don’t take the whole into account but are more centered on personal opinions and preferences. And sometimes this creates tension: “I want it this way.” “Your way won’t work.” “You’re not getting it.” Maybe the responses are a bit less direct than that, but they might have the same tone.
We bring people together to gather opinions, but we need to do so with a unity toward resolution. The process rarely goes anywhere but downhill when we simply stand firm on our own ways without entertaining how pieces of perspectives might allow for a more comprehensive effort. The context becomes me-based instead of possibilities-based. Plus, we tease people into thinking we want their opinions when what we really want is to be able to say we brought a lot of people together to brainstorm, while we still let the approach that was already discussed behind the scenes be the prominent solution. Why even meet and do more damage? We end up with people walking away and saying, “Why did I even come? No one listened anyway.” Or when no action is ever taken as a follow-up, “Why did I waste my time and passion investing when nothing was ever actually done?”
Instead, what if we encourage, “Let’s come up with possible solutions that benefit a variety of people.” Widen the scope before the conversation even begins. That helps the group stay on task with a broader focus. Of course, people will differ on what they believe is beneficial, but that can make for a better discussion. When solutions are based on benefits, stream-lining, compassion, and consideration, we contribute in new ways. We widen our perspective. Of course, we still consider our own preferences, but they don’t take precedence. They only become one piece of the whole.
When we are invited to become a part of the solution, we are invested. We care. We set down our bullhorns and pull up a chair to the table. If we want to invite people to invest, we need to create a space that helps the process. We need to steward the process. When we’re willing to see people and dynamics, we will also see solutions that go beyond one problem to be solved.