Read anything on leadership, coaching, social change, human interaction, and a common theme arises. To connect and engage effectively, we have to meet people where they are at.
This requires us to focus on them, where they are, who they are, what they face. It requires us to listen, probe, understand. To the degree that we can, we have to imagine ourselves in their shoes.
Often, however, we listen with an agenda. So often, particularly as leaders and sellers, we are looking for the problem. After all, that’s what we do—solve problems. But the problem is not a person. It’s something people grapple with, but it doesn’t define them.
Or without understanding where they are at, we focus on where we want them to be.
To meet people where they are at, we have to look deeper than the problem. We have to set aside, for a moment, where we want them to be. We have to connect with them as human beings. We have to learn about how they see and experience things, we have to understand how they feel about those things, their fears, dreams, and aspirations.
One might ask, why do we need to do this?
What we must recognize, is that where they are at, may not be where they want to be. And, almost certainly, they are probably not where we might want them to be. And until we understand this, we can’t incite them to change.
Sometimes, they may not know where they want to be. They only know they are dissatisfied with where they are at. We engage them in imagining possibilities. Exploring what might be.
Doing this enables us to connect with them, engaging them as human beings. And until we do this, it’s difficult to get them to look at problems that keep them from being where they want to be.
When I look at the very best leaders, coaches, sellers–it’s that ability to understand both where people are at and where they want to be that makes them so impactful. It’s what enables them to drive great change–whether at an individual level, an organizational level, or a societal level.
Unfortunately, too often, we don’t even try to meet people where they are at. Instead, we demand they meet us where we are at. We focus on what we want to achieve, our goals/objectives, what we want to talk about. As sellers, we pitch our products/companies with little understanding of where the customer is at or where they want to be.
And we see how ineffective this is. People don’t feel included–they leave our companies or do the things we want them to do. Prospects don’t engage because they don’t care where we are at. Or they don’t see the value of meeting us where we are at.
Imagine what might be possible–individually, organizationally, socially. If we started meeting people where they are at, understanding where they might want to be; they might also start being interested in understanding where we are at, where we want to be–and we can change and achieve together.
We begin to think about what may be possible.
Afterword, we also have to recognize, that sometimes, it is best to leave them where they are. Also, we have to recognize that we may not be the ones to help them get to where they want to be.