I was having an important conversation with someone recently. This other person and I usually agree on the desired end result in situations, even if we have different ways of getting to the same solution.

In this recent instance, we both expressed our strong desire for a mutually beneficial outcome. Yet through several talks, we’ve struggled to find common ground in how we could get to an outcome meeting both of our needs.

To try and move things forward during our last conversation, we each proposed an approach we individually thought would be best for the other one.

Lo and behold, however, we both thought that what the other person was suggesting (with the best intent) was actually detrimental.

We didn’t seem to be able to get beyond the perception that suddenly we weren’t even seeing things with the other one in mind. While we ended the conversation with a commitment to continue the conversation, I think it was disheartening for both of us as we struggled to figure out what the other one was thinking and why we seemed to see things so far apart.

Drawing Each Other Out

Then a couple of days later, this simple drawing occurred to me.

I realized we were the people in the sketch, each looking out for the other one, but facing in COMPLETELY different directions relative to the issue we’re trying to solve. While it seemed we had lost sight of each other (i.e feeling 180 degrees apart), we are really 359 degrees apart. That can make you feel as if you've completely lost sight of one another, but it REALLY means we're 1 degree apart and ARE really still right next to each other. For whatever reasons however, we are facing our common challenge in a way that clearly hasn’t been productive for finding a mutually beneficial outcome.

Having this drawing pop into my head was tremendously reassuring, giving me hope we really can figure things out for our mutual good. The solution is in listening and reacquainting ourselves in a very detailed way about what we want in common so we can think and talk about our differences in new, more productive ways.

This drawing also helps me understand some other relationships in my life the last few years where changing circumstances have made me feel so far away from people that I’ve been so close to for years.

The moral of the drawing?

If you’re not able to see where someone you’re usually very close to is coming from as you both approach a new challenge, turn around, in whatever way you can - physically or mentally. You may find you are just as close as you’ve ever been, but are simply facing back to back right now. – Mike Brown


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