How to Talk with Lower-Engagement Leaders

Your way of making sense of the world is clearly useful. It seems to work for you. You got this far. Then you meet people who just don’t see the world as clearly as you do. They seem to see it differently.

While there are many explanations for differences in worldview (different cultures, different languages, different life experiences), one difference we have found to be critical is in what you perceive to be real. Your level of perceived reality.

Do you tend to see reality as that which you can touch? Mostly it is what is directly right here right now, often in quite material terms. That’s real. Or do you also include how things ebb and flow over time, how people develop in new capacities and relationships? It’s about the material and the dynamics of networks of influence. That’s real. Or do you also include the potential you and others see in what is not yet here, in the creative arts? It’s about the outcomes and the learning and the potential. That’s real. Or do you also include the learning from feedback of what actually happens, and how that informs the potential you see, in service to a deeper purpose, and pathways to getting there. It’s about evolutionary co-tangibilizing. That’s real. It turns out that these are four very different perspectives of what is real. And, most people think that theirs is the right and only one, in any given moment. At each of these four levels, you are adding dimensions of reality.

Our global survey research, with over 100,000 people from 125 countries, finds that there is a distribution of people, across these four perspectives of what is real. And, the same people might vary what they perceive to be real depending on the group they are with, the group’s agreements field–how the group engages, transforms, and transfers creative energy.

Communicating with someone who is working with a different perspective of what is real, along this continuum, is very challenging. If you perceive more of reality to exist than they do, they don’t necessarily see you as stronger, rather weaker. That their reality doesn’t include dimensions that yours does means that you are focusing on things that are invisible or irrelevant to them. Those dimensions you find to be so interested are not in their equation.

Here is a 4-step process to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real.

Step #1 — Where You Are. The first step to communicating with someone with a different perspective of what is real is to determine where you are, what you include in your perspective of reality. In very simple terms, you can think of these as nouns-only, verbs-nouns, light-verbs-nouns, and ecosystems of sacred hospitality levels of reality.

  • Nouns-only — there are things, mostly material, that are right here right now
  • Verb-nouns — there are things, and there is change over time and space
  • Light-verbs-nouns — there are things, change, and always-present creative potential
  • Ecosystems of sacred hospitality — there are things, change, creative potential, all in an ever-evolving service to a deeper shared purpose

Step #2 — Where They Are. The second step is to determine where they are. How does the person you are communicating with see the world? What do they include in what they perceive to be real?

Step #3 — Understand How They See You from Their Reality. The other person can only see you and your reality from their reality. If your reality has more dimensions than theirs, they don’t see that. Often your attention to and inclusion of these other dimensions creates confusion for them. You are talking about things that are not in their definition of what is real, which usually is interpreted by them as a weakness. What you are going on and on about isn’t real.

The following table provides a first scan of what each perspective of reality experiences when communicating with someone from one of the other perspectives. This is based on what we observe when working with people across levels.

Perceived RealityN SeesVN SeesLVN SeesESH Sees
Ecosystems of Sacred Hospitality (ESH)High-risk explorersLack of alignment on agreed purposeShifting purposeComprehensive clarity (purposeful evolution)
Light-Verbs-Nouns (LVN)Lack of clear focus (high risk ventures)Lack of applying learningsComprehensive clarity (tangibilization)Beingness
Verbs-Nouns (VN)Inefficient, always experimentingComprehensive clarity (learning)Stuck in own thinkingBecoming
Noun-only (N)Comprehensive clarity (efficiency)Static surprise from dynamicsCollapsed in outcomesAlready finished

If they are coming from a perspective with fewer dimensions of perceived reality than you–for example, they see Nouns-only (N) and you see Verbs-Nouns (VN)–they see your focus on learning and developing new capacities and relationships as being inefficient. You are always experimenting with something new, never focused on what you have already done. Always moving on to the next thing and not leveraging what you already have.

Step #4 — How to Communicate with Them. To communicate with them, you are trying to invite them into a reality, yours, that is not part of their reality. It works best to start with remembering what they see as real. If you are a verb-noun-reality person, you might be most excited about sharing your focus on the learning, the verbs. To you the importance of the nouns is obvious and already proven, so you are focused on how to improve on what you already know. To communicate with the Nouns-only person, start by showing that you can speak their language, in their reality. Yes, you have nouns, which you have proven to be efficient. You have outcomes. You are efficient. Now you can ask, what if we could have even more-efficient nouns? You are introducing verbs-nouns dimensions of reality, in terms that a Nouns-only reality can begin to perceive. Focusing only on your leading-edge understanding of the cool features of learning and developing sounds to them like you are not grounded. Stay grounded and add the benefits of some verbs.

This logic works all the way up through the ESH levels. Start with what they can see as real in your world. Then you can begin to see if they might see the value of beginning to add dimensions of the next level.

What do you do if you are communicating with someone whose reality includes higher dimensions than yours? You might be working with a Verbs-Nouns (VN) reality, while they appear to be working from an LVN or ESH level. You might perceive that they can see things you can’t. You can invite them to share what they see. It is most helpful if you clarify with them that it is most useful to you if they can explain it first in terms you can understand–in verbs and nouns. Then they can begin to show you the value of adding dimensions from LVN or ESH. The point is to communicate with others. If you experience that you want to communicate with someone else and that it seems like you are talking about completely different things, while still in relatively the same context, maybe you are assuming different levels of perceived reality. Ask. See if you can get to a shared understanding at the Nouns-only level. Then you can try the Verbs-Nouns level, and so on.

The good news is that we all have all of these levels of perceived reality within us, so we can access all four of these levels of perceived reality. And, the agreements we tend to work with in some groups exclude some of them, making communication difficult. Since you already have the dimensions within you, you can still access them and ask the question. It is your choice.

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