A few weeks ago, I was having a very heated debate in the office over which pronunciation of “GIF” (acronym: graphic interchange format) is correct.
There are basically two lines of thought, GIF with a hard G (think “graphic”) and GIF with a soft G (think general). I, of course, was on the correct side of the argument, knowing in my bones the correct way to say the word is with a soft G. However, my colleague to my right, our lead web designer, said GIF the other way. The wrong way. I immediately corrected her, KNOWING I was right, I channeled my inner Oscar Nunez and said, “Well, ACTUALLY, it’s pronounced GIF (with a soft G).”
The argument immediately ensued. A playful argument sure, but an argument nonetheless. We discussed this meaningless topic for about 30 minutes, both finding articles that supported our claims. Both thinking of words that used either the soft or hard g. Words like giraffe, gift, graph and Jif Peanut Butter was even thrown into the mix.
What we learned was that there doesn’t seem to be a correct answer. Yet we thought there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel, where one of us was going to be right, there wasn’t. When reflecting on that moment, I realized that I never took the time to step into the other person’s shoes and see the problem from a different perspective. That’s more of a problem than which pronunciation is correct!
So, what does this teach us and how can we learn from these simple disagreements in the workplace? As professionals, we HAVE to be mindful of what’s going on around us, we have to be able to step into the other person’s shoes and learn about their side, their story, and their experience.
For this to happen with a coworker is one thing, but what happens when it’s a client. There are so many ways to address them, so many different perspectives and ideas, but it’s about sitting down, getting to know the person across from you, stepping into their shoes, and handling it the best way for them.
Different perspectives are good. They’re how we learn and grow as people. It’s up to us if we want to put the time and energy into understanding the person across from us. It’s up to us if we want to really listen for the problem at hand. It’s up to us to solve these problems. At the end of the day, all we are is problem solvers. Besides, we can take the easy route and simply agree with each other, but then we’d both be wrong.