Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Peering Through the Window Panes by SUSAN HARRIS

The building that housed the vocational trades was located further away from the main school compound. As such, the names of the departments there morphed into a description of location, and not curriculum, heightening the sensitivity of those who taught there.

My colleague, Jennifer, was livid. Someone had referred to an incident that took place "down the hill."

"How would you feel if someone was calling your department by another name?"

I taught Management of Business written on the timetable as MOB, but did not think it wise to elaborate on that.

"Not good."

The two words appeared to mollify the offended woman somewhat.

I left that school several years ago but I've remained cognizant how people view the things they value. How attached they are to the status quo. How they look at occurrences through their particular windows in life. How closely the perceptions are tied to their identity. How their reactions are a culmination of not one incident but too many occurrences, shooting out like petals from a core. A core that that has grown strained and tired as it nourishes the multi-directional spread.

I came across the Johari Window in Psychology of Education. The Johari Window, postulated by American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, is a tool for understanding business relationships, self-awareness and personal relationships. The study identifies four areas of soft skills viewed through the "panes in a window."

In the first pane, called an "open" area, are the things a person knows about herself and what others also know about her. This is the area of least contention because all parties generally interpret behaviours and knowledge in the same fashion.

The second pane is the "blind spot," that which is unknown to a person about himself but what others know.

In the third pane we find the hidden area, that which a person knows about herself but others do not know. The hidden area can hold insecurities, fears, secrets, motives - anything that a person knows but does not reveal.

The fourth pane is the unknown area which neither the person, nor any one else,  is aware of.

Meet Roger. He phoned to initiate contact about publishing after finding my name in cyber world. His breathing was raspy. When he laughed, a wheezing sound accompanied each gust. Like me, he seemed fond of appreciating his own jokes. The difference with me is that I keep my self-appreciating humour within my family circles. So Roger laughed and wheezed often while I held the phone inches away from my ear.

But it was not his laugh or cough that made me feel I could not do business with the man. Rather, it was the incessant talk, his monologue. The few times I interjected, Roger was bent on giving his spiel, and not answers to my questions.

It was then I had an epiphany: If I had a problem during the publishing process, would I be able to resolve it with Roger? Would I be heard? Or would he justify, and reverberate, what he wanted to say?

"Roger." I cut into the conversation abruptly in louder tones than I had previously used. The line became silent. "I cannot move forward with you because I don’t believe I'd resolve a problem if one arose. I'm not being heard. You don't listen well."

Pane 2 was dominant.

Andy said off the bat that he had a problem with authority. I peered through Pane 1 and there was no need to view through the others.

Melanie resented questions. It appeared that instead of taking the opportunity to show potential business partners her skills and prowess, Melanie reinforced her neediness and their initial assessment. I viewed her as operating pre-dominantly like Roger.

Conflict management is a key element in deciding who I move forward with in business. Strange as it may sound, I actually want to see myself in a problematic situation before I commit to a business relationship with that person. Not that I'd stir the pot but I want to know attitudes and problem-solving models. How my potential partner reacts in a crisis.

When we know the kind of people who bring out the best in us, and make them key people in our relationships, we can live fully.  

(An excerpt from Remarkably Ordinary: 20 Reflections on Living Intentionally Right Where You Are Chapter 10, "Peering Through the Window Panes" by Susan Harris 2014).

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BIO: Susan Harris' ebook, Remarkably Ordinary: 20 Reflections on Living Intentionally Right Where You Are will be released in print in October. She is a speaker and former teacher, and the author of Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. Her first submission to Chicken Soup for the Soul is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? edition was released on August 19, 2014. The story is called "Smokey's Lock-out". Her children's picture book, Alphabet on The Farm will also be released, in both English and French. Susan was born in exotic Trinidad but now lives on the Saskatchewan prairies with her husband, daughter and the unpredictable cats.



Peter Black said...

Thanks. The 'panes' concept is interesting, Susan. I also find interesting your preference for seeing yourself in "a problematic situation *before*" you "commit to a business relationship with that person." I can see that it could prove beneficial. ~~+~~

Susan Harris said...

I believe a relationship must be tested in order to know its foundation and this concept has proved beneficial to me many time. Thanks for reading, Peter.

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