Similar to the idea of a fixed versus growth mindset, our interactions can be one-way or two-way street interactions, with a focus mostly on ourselves or a focus on both sides of the interaction. What is your natural inclination? How often do we focus on these types of one-way thoughts:

    • Getting our needs met at a meeting (gathering information, crossing things off a list)?
    • Who we will meet at a networking session?
    • What we will say when speaking or presenting?
    • What other people are thinking about us?

As I was writing an article recently about how to get the most out of conferences and training, I suggested preparing not only for what you want to learn or take away from it (like connections), but also preparing for what you can do to increase your contribution to others. That led me to consider how so much of what we do defaults to a one-way street mindset versus looking at interactions as a two-way street.

Just recently, a leader shared with me about an employee who no longer attended meetings because they claimed they “weren’t getting anything out of the meeting that would help them with their job.” My reaction was, “What about what they can contribute to the meeting?” Again, the two-way street mentality.

Slowing Down for Others Builds Commitment

I think this is particularly true for Type A people or those who have Achiever or Responsibility as top Gallup strengths. The “task list” looms large and things need to be checked off – quickly! And while pushing through a lot of work can be a positive aspect of those superpowers, it also sometimes means we bypass important opportunities or divine appointments.
Almost every encounter we have can be looked at from two perspectives – ours and the person or situation we are interacting with. I know for myself, sometimes I am moving so quickly I forget to even examine the other side of the coin. And the painful truth (I know I hate to admit this) is that sometimes it’s grounded in our focus on getting something done versus being concerned about those around us. But when we take the time to focus on those around us, we can actually get more done because we have an engaged workforce that is committed to the mission.

Influencing Requires Two-Way Thinking

One-way thinking often results in people being less influential. George, a recent client, wanted to convince his executive leadership to make some strategic shifts in resource allocation. As the meeting date got closer, I asked George, “So what do you think they will be worried about? How does your request meet their needs and concerns?” His silence spoke volumes. George was so focused on telling them why he thought it was a good idea that he never thought about their perspective. He ended up reframing his presentation and got approval.
This situation is not uncommon. Most leaders we work with have very few of the influencing strengths – it isn’t on their radar to think about persuading others. Many people assume that if the facts are presented clearly, people will just get on board, but that’s not reality. Building a two-way street mindset increases your power of influence.

Key Questions to Help Strengthen this Muscle

A shift to this mindset takes time – just as building physical muscle takes time and training before a race. The difference is, this is a life-long race, so we need to continually work on keeping this two-way mindset muscle strong.

Here are some questions I find helpful in being more mindful of two-way street thinking:

  • What can we learn from each other? (Don’t assume only one side has something to share, because, at minimum, both sides have a unique perspective to share.)
  • What are their needs, and how can I best help?
  • What are their concerns, and how can I help alleviate them?
  • Who might I assist at this networking meeting, and how can I build a relationship with them?
  • What is important to the person I am negotiating with, and how can I create a win-win solution?
  • How much time am I spending listening and learning versus speaking? (This is an especially good question for me during times of prayer – do I run through the list, or do I sit and wait to hear His quiet voice?)
  • Who can I encourage as I go about my day?
  • Where and when can I slow my pace, even if for just 30 minutes, so I can notice the needs around me? (Being intentional about this often requires getting it on the calendar. We get done what is on our calendar, so if this is important to you, put it on there.)

Think about the past week. Are there times you defaulted to one-way street thinking when a two-way street mindset would have been more beneficial for all involved? As you go into the week ahead, take time to notice your mindset toward interactions with others and start working on enhancing your two-way street thinking. Making the shift may open up all sorts of new possibilities for you.

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    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.