Physics in HR – Light and Focus

You don’t have to attend too many meetings to have heard the following phrases:

  • Let’s focus on the key issues
  • Let me shed some light on that
  • I would like to zoom in on this point
  • Looking at it from a different perspective we see…
  • If we step back, we can see the bigger picture
  • That problem has been lurking in the shadows
  • Here’s how I see it
  • But if we apply the right lens to this situation
  • Filter out the extraneous issues

These are all alternative ways of saying “Let me try and convince you I am right”.

When we look at something, anything, we are seeing a reflection of light from that thing. We see something, and based on our experience, we translate what we are seeing. If our eyes are not perfect (I am nearsighted) we see things quite differently from someone who has great vision. So I wear corrective lenses to allow me to see what others with normal vision see. That’s why metaphors related to vision are so powerful for most of us. And in an environment where we value diversity, we try hard to “see things from other perspectives”.

The truth is that when we use the phrases above, we are usually not talking about vision, we are talking about reason. We use the visual metaphor because most of us can see normally, and we engage people that way. We are trying to inform people and get them thinking the way we think, not trying to literally see what we see.

But reason and thinking are not addressed with physics equations and reflecting light.

So here’s the challenge. Listen to yourself in the next meeting you attend. Do you use metaphors related to vision? Can you be more direct and save time or do you have to take people on a visual journey? Can you say instead:

  • Let me tell you what I think is the most important issue here
  • Let me tell you what I know, which I believe to be true
  • Let’s try and understand this specific fact
  • If we start with different assumptions, we may have a different understanding
  • Let’s make sure we collect all the important facts
  • We need to make sure we are thorough in our review of problems
  • Here is my current conclusion/hypothesis
  • If we narrow or change the criteria, we might come to a different conclusion
  • I would like to ignore certain facts here, if we can agree to that

I think you can do it. Think about what you are really trying to say and cut past the metaphor. Our jobs are a lot about what we see, but they are even more about what we learn, intuit, and reason. If your language reflects that, you will be seen as acting authentically.



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