Mind the Gap

I so look forward, when I’m in London, to that lovely English voice on the Underground telling me to ‘Mind…the Gap’.

The human gap we need to be mindful of is the gap in our interpretation – that is the gap between YOUR interpretation of an event, a conversation or an experience… and someone else’s!

One of the big neuroscientific discoveries of our time is the understanding of just how different every individual human brain is compared to the brain of another human being – and I mean ‘really different’.

There are many claims in the journalistic (and scientific) world about how many billions of connections we have between the neurons in our brains. Whilst there may be arguments about whether there are 100 billion or 86 billions neurons, with up to 10,000 connections between each…blah blah – it’s lots!

We (the neuroscientists and me!) used to think that when a particular activity was performed by the brain, then the same parts of the brain would ‘light up’.  FMRI technology has provided us with evidence that this is not the case.  We now know that the way our brains are wired is infinitely different from one person to another – that the way our neurons are connected is a result of our genetic inheritence, the impact of our environment, our experiences and our choices throughout life which are, of course, all vastly different.  And these influences impact how our brains have been wired over time.

What this means, of course, is that the chance that any one of us being wired the same is non-existent and that we cannot in any way predict how another human interprets or processes an event or information.

BUT, we make the assumption that we are all the same, that the way another person thinks or processes is the same as us.  And of course, if we know that person well, we double that assumption. It’s the brain’s way of conserving energy (of being appropriately lazy). It takes the easy way out and assumes or predicts what another person is thinking or believing or knowing or processing.

As a leader (team, organisational, parental or community), minding the gap can be a powerful tool to save the wasted time, energy and emotion of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. It can also contribute to much more useful and creative problem-solving and outcomes.

There are three steps to Minding the Gap!

Firstly, you need to be MINDFUL of the fact that there might be a gap!

This will be dependent on your capcity to be mindfully present to situations where there might be thinking or interpretations that differ to yours, and particularly to where those differences may cause issue at some time in the near or distant future, or where those perspectives (even if they challenge yours) may in the end lead to more creative outcomes, or to risk reduction.

Secondly, you need to be FOCUSED on the wiring of the others you are working or communicating with, not just your own wiring.  We do have a tendency to forget that others may have a different perspective, a different experience or different knowledge to us.

And finally, you need to take the time and effor to INQUIRE about their wiring, to truly understand their perspective, their emotional reaction and mental capacity in that moment, their knowledege or experience and their ideas before you begin to include yours.

If you can UNDERSTAND the gap, you can avoid the ineffective traps of IGNORING, DEFENDING or DIRECTING the thinking of others which can lead to feelings of disconnection, disengagement, and where you can literally shut down or offend others by not providing them the respect and time to explore both sides of the equation.

Mind the Gap Simple

Think back over the last few days, at home or at work, and identify times when you have tended to Instruct when you could have Inquired, or where you have been focused on Your Wiring rather than Wiring of Others.  Could you have handled that situation differently, and could their have been a better outcome?

What do you need to REWIRE today?


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