🎹 Music for this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfUzs4NDa64.
What might happen if we could see inside someone’s head, and gain a better understanding of what makes that person tick?
You’ve seen it before. You kick off a new project, and you’re working hard, meeting with all sorts of people to understand what’s required. You schedule a meeting with a key person. On the day of the meeting, he’s completely disengaged. No worries; you reschedule. The new meeting day arrives, but he cancels. What could be happening?
You may have a meeting with someone you’ve worked with a for a long time. On the day you meet, she’s “off.” Everybody has a bad day, so you reschedule. When you finally meet, you notice that your dear colleague just…seems…different these days.
What do you do? Do you get visibly frustrated? Do you complain to the person, or to someone else?
Or do you sit back and think: What could I be missing?
How do we better engage the disengaged, or the people who are acting in ways we don’t quite understand?
I introduced readers to the idea of invisibleism in August of 2020. Since that time, that article has become one of the most-read blog posts on The Progressive CIO, and it is something that has sparked more than a few conversations with my own business colleagues.
The natural challenge in overcoming invisibleism is allowing yourself ample time to consider the things you don’t see in the person or people at hand.
Over the last several years, I have groomed a collection of questions that I ask myself when I realize that I am at risk of being an invisibleist. In this post, I share with you, at long last, “The Invisibleism Grids.” (Link will open in a new tab or window.) These grids have been designed for you as a tool. Read on for more about when and how to use them.
When to use the grids
The Invisibleism Grids are most useful when you are having an issue engaging with someone in the context of solving a business problem (which includes eliciting requirements, service and product development, process engineering, and other similar activities.) The grids are not a complete list of human conditions by any means; they are merely a reflection of my own 30+ years in the workplace, representing the spectrum of personal situations that I have experienced with others. More pertinently, these are all characteristics or conditions that, if you are armed with a little knowledge, you can accommodate or work through to achieve a business goal.
The grids are useful when you wish to develop a more meaningful relationship with anyone, whether in a business or personal setting. But that is not their primary purpose.
How to use the grids
When you have an issue engaging with someone in the context of solving a business problem, scan through the grids, which are divided into the following core categories of human conditions:
- Psychological Considerations
- Comparative/Positional/Relational Considerations
- Considerations of Self
- Situational/Environmental Considerations
- Personality Considerations
- Ability Considerations
- Addiction Considerations
Think about each item and whether it might be at play. There are more than 60 things to consider in these grids, none of which I would say are uncommon.
The first grid, Psychological Issues, is special, and different from the grids that follow. It includes 38 indicators that will guide you to consider whether a psychological condition might be at play.
The 38 indicators are not an exhaustive collection of symptoms for the conditions at hand; they are merely the indicators that are easiest for a person like you or me to observe.
I am resolutely not a psychologist, and you might be in the same boat, but we are all entitled consider the implications of these conditions in the lives of people with whom we interact. The key difference between us, the mere amateurs, and those with a Ph.D or M.D. is that we can merely surmise, while the doctors can diagnose.
Have a look at the conditions, and think about the possibility that the person in question might be experiencing one or more of them. I have provided a pair of links for each overarching condition — one from an authoritative nonprofit that contributes to the understanding of the condition by the general public, and a second from an authoritative medical source like the NIH — that will help you gain a better understanding if you think you are onto something.
The Addictions grid is decidedly non-exhaustive. I’ve listed five key sorts of addictions I have managed through in my career, with a handy link from the Mayo Clinic that will help you identify personality traits that surround all manner of addictions. If you think you are dealing with a person who has an addiction, there are numerous resources at your disposal through a Google search.
The remaining grids (Comparative/Positional/Relational, Self, Situational/Environmental, Personality, and Abilities) are broken down into subcategories, with many things to consider in each. Where I have been able to find an authoritative or useful article online to help you develop a better understanding of how that human condition might relate to your work at hand, I have linked to one. Where it makes sense, I provide an illustrative spectrum of 3-4 levels of these conditions, and how those levels may be manifest.
As with the Psychological Issues and Addictions grids, there are portions of these grids that are not exhaustive. For example, the “Abilities” grid lists merely two “invisible” things; but these two things are, in my experience, most likely to have an impact on your day to day business work with someone else.
If you take the time to consider the 60+ conditions and the 38 psychological indicators, you will have considered nearly 100 different things that might be going on in a person’s life, all which are generally much more difficult to discern than race, gender, age, and (sometimes) class. As you work through the aspects of the grids, you will reduce your odds of becoming an Invisibleist in the situation at hand.
Two critical considerations
Please do not use the Invisibleism Grids without considering these two points:
- First, never forget that your own behaviors will affect how others respond to you. To best use the grids, we would do well to exercise a great deal of situational self-awareness, to understand how our own personal traits affect others and the conversations we have with them. Think about aspects of the grids that describe you, and spend time to increase your understanding of how those things may affect your own interactions.
- Second, there is no doubt that aspects of both your human condition and mine can be unearthed via the Invisibleism Grids. You and I are as subject to the discrimination that comes from invisibleism as anyone else. If your goal in using the Invisibleism Grids is to better discern what might be causing difficulty in your interactions, remember that personal vulnerability goes a long way. If you are comfortable enough to share the invisible aspects of your world, you will increase the odds that your interlocutors will feel comfortable making the invisible visible to you, easing your understanding, and enhancing your relationships.