Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gaining Other Perspectives

The ability to see different sides of an argument and seeing alternate perspectives is a skill vital to social interaction and moral decision making.  We all like it when other understand us or at least make an attempt to do so. If we want others to see into our perspective we must first make the good faith effort to see into theirs. How can we expect others to listen if we don’t listen ourselves?

Another benefit to seeing other perspectives is that it releases the anxiety, fear and frustration we have about others. Even if you don’t agree with the conclusions that come from another perspective you gain much by simply understanding how they got to those conclusions.  It’s human nature to fear the unknown so the best way to quell that fear is by gaining knowledge and in this case it’s of others’ perspective. It’s also much easier to hate someone if you have incomplete or incorrect knowledge of their perspective and conversely, it’s much easier to love and trust them when you do understand them.

But how does one accomplish seeing outside of one’s own perspective? You must start by first understanding the nature of the bias that forms your perspective.  Realize that the way you see things is shaped by your past experiences, limited knowledge of how everything works, and yours brain chemistry (emotions).  When you understand the limitations of your perspective you can begin to fill the gaps of knowledge with information you attain from others.  Give your past experience equal weight as others’. Attempt to remove your emotions from the equation. Example: is there any objective evidence that that man is just out to get you, or just it just feel that way?. Your feelings will often mislead you into believing something is more factually true than it actually is.

We often think “I would never act that way” if you want to see into others perspectives, refrain from that type of thinking.  Instead think about this: “Is there anything that could happen to me that could make me act that way? Is this person possibly experiencing some of those conditions?”

If what someone has said is unclear to you (or even if it does appear to be clear) ask questions! There is always more information to get.   Try not to angle any questions to get a certain response. You questions should simply seek clarification of the information already presented. 

The most important step is to empathize! It’s helpful to know the facts of another’s situation, but to feel what they feel is to go to another realm of understanding.  Empathizing with another perspective will give you opportunities to connect, trust and even love where it would be otherwise impossible.

It’s a difficult and slow process but one that I think you will find to be well worth the effort.