I love different perspectives, as a mediator I’m forever a student of perspectives. I find them fascinating. But when I’m angry, I don’t. I just want to dig into my safe, predictable and right perspective. My brain likes it that way. It keeps me feeling safe and smart and able to expect how things will go. It has taken all the information that it has, my experiences and my feelings associated with those experiences and it’s created my point of view. And it’s the RIGHT point of view obviously.
And then I start to justify why there is no possible explanation beyond what I’ve created that will work. This lets me feel powerful, smart and in control. And in that moment, I assume that no other possible perspectives could possibly be right. But, it’s then that I couldn’t be more wrong….
Who me? Wrong?!?!?
Perspectives are a funny thing, they influence us all the time but we rarely think of them. We just operate on autopilot with the perspectives we have. We assume that they are working for us, and that generally we ‘get it’. But what if that autopilot has us missing out on some new ideas, solutions or relationships? What if our perspectives are holding us back, or hurting someone that we haven’t even meant to?
It’s possible, and in fact I see it often as a mediator. We often assume that even if someone’s perspective is different than ours, that it’s only slightly different and overall similar. Or if it’s wildly different, we often dismiss it as wrong or overblown because it’s so unfamiliar to us. Those differences in how we see things often lead to conflict that at its root is a misunderstanding of the motives that drive our behaviour.
If it’s different we often dismiss it as wrong
The American Dictionary defines Perspective as “a particular way of viewing things that depends on one’s experience and personality” or “the ability to consider things in relation to one another”. To me that means that perspective can vary as much as our personalities and experiences do. A shy person probably has a different perspective on a big birthday party than an extrovert has.
Different Perspectives Make Us Interesting
Different perspectives are what make us interesting, and they can spur on some awesome creativity when they are valued. But when we’re angry, hurt or frustrated we don’t find different perspectives so much fun. They complicate things, they feel wrong.
These days it’s easier than ever to isolate ourselves to only see and hear perspectives that match our own. Often on social media we join groups or follow pages and friends that see the world as we do. We create our own echo chambers. Why? Because it makes us feel like we fit in, like we’ve got things figured out. We all do it in varying degrees, it’s human nature to seek out others who think and believe what we do. My twitter feed follows a lot of Vancouver Canucks hockey fan accounts, which means that when something in a game is disputed most of the voices I see and hear are going to agree with each other. But if I followed the opposing team’s accounts, I would probably hear the opposite.
An echo chamber is “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.” Oxford Dictionary
When I work with clients, one of the things we do is take time to consider that there might be other viable and important perspectives. I open up the conversation so that each side needs to listen to the other side’s perspective. This goes beyond just hearing it, they need to understand it. They don’t need to agree with it, but understanding it means learning the background and the reasons for different views. It’s in this information that we can start to craft solutions and relate more to each other.
Clients start to see that a different perspective isn’t automatically wrong, it’s just different. Sometimes filling in those information gaps changes what we thought. Because it’s ok to change our views when we have new information, we don’t have to pick a perspective and stick with it forever.
I admire people who hear other perspectives and then can pivot and grow as they adapt and include the new information into what they now know. My views on packaging have changed as I’ve learned more about what happens to the things we ‘recycle’. I’m now actively aware and looking for products that aren’t needlessly over packaged. But 2 years ago, I didn’t give it a thought.
I firmly believe that we all can relate better to each other when we are more open to different perspectives, and that we can all improve are disagreements when we do. So, I’ve decided that for the next month, I’m going to challenge my perspectives and I’d like you all to join me. Because sharing is caring, I want us all to share what we see, what’s changed for us, and what challenged us. To do this with relative ease, I’ve created a facebook group with daily challenges to just get us aware of perspectives instead of living on autopilot. Id’ be thrilled and honoured if you came along for the ride.
You can find the Perspective Challenge here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/280797742526161/
And if you think you’d like some help working through a conflict learn more about me and the services I provide at www.empoweredresults.ca/services
Forever a student of different perspectives, Sarah Turl leads people through conversations that explore how we can leverage them for conflict resolution Of course, when she disagrees with her husband, it’s still because he is wrong and she is right.