Owl photo by Joe Green via Unslash

One problem with remote work is that it’s even easier for misunderstandings to occur.

It’s hard even when we’re working from the same physical space and have multiple opportunities to talk face to face every day. But now? Fuggedaboutit!

Left unaddressed those misunderstandings can quickly escalate into destructive conflicts.

One way to deal with this risk is to develop the habit of explicitly considering different viewpoints.

When you see or hear something you think is obviously incorrect, try asking yourself:

How might this make sense?

Resist the urge to immediately dismiss things that are not aligned with your current way of thinking.

Put yourself in other people’s shoes and think what might lead someone to think or act this way? What value might they be trying to protect?

This does NOT mean that you have to accept it. You might still disagree and act accordingly.

Then again you might notice something you have not considered before and expand your view of the world.

Let’s say your company want to introduce time tracking.

What is your reaction?

Absurd?

Idiotic?

They should trust us?

Pause!

What if we assume positive intent?

What might they be trying to achieve?

Protect the company? Keep things in good order? Improve transparency?

Maybe even protect the team from working too many hours?

Without more information you don’t really know which interpretation is best. It might not be the most positive one, but it might not be your initial one either.

It’s useful to train this kind of openness to different ways of thinking, even if in the end you decide to stick to your original judgement.

During the upcoming week try to notice things that you disagree with, pause and try to peel back a layer or two to uncover the deeper assumptions hiding behind them.

It could be what someone said.

It could be what someone did.

It could be something you read.

An imperfect piece of code.

A strange design.

For a bit of advanced practice take a look at the culture of a foreign country and try to figure out how their weird customs could make sense in their circumstances.