All of us have internal maps that shape how we think, feel, react, and relate to others.
As we encounter new experiences, we take out our maps to give us perspective (or a “frame”) on those experiences. We’re directed through all of life using those maps to guide us.
Unfortunately, we rarely pull out and analyze our maps. We don’t see the map, we see WITH the map, all the while believing that the way we are perceiving the world is universally real. But everyone has a different map of reality. If you are listening to those around you, you’ll begin to intuit a person’s map of reality in the way they phrase their experiences when they speak.
Researchers find that the left side of our brains (the logic side) is committed to interpreting all of our overt behavior and emotional responses. Evidently, this is done so that the brain can have a consistent story of all that is happening at any given time.
Sometimes the left side will go to bizarre lengths to correlate events into a coherent story. Unfortunately, these explanations from the left side of our brains often contradict what we have in our maps on the right side (the “feeling”, emotional side), which results in incongruence, double messages, and confusion for the listener.
So our perspective (our map) helps us to interpret the meaning of our experiences. But our interpretations are always bound by context.
In other words, a particular map that suits us just fine in one situation may not work well at all in another.
When you are operating in the Blue Zone in the middle of a conflict, your job is to listen carefully to how people are framing all of the situations involved in the conflict. Your task is to look over their shoulders as they consult their internal maps. Note to yourself whether or not these maps are helpful in moving the project, the relationship, the organization forward.
If the map is not helpful and in fact you are heading in the wrong direction your job is to offer a new map so that people can get a different orientation on what is actually happening.
To use an updated metaphor, sometimes you have to hit “alternate routes” on your GPS!
Of course it goes without saying that before you can help people get oriented correctly in conflict you have to be willing to do the hard and good work of taking an objective look at your own map!