“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Have you ever fought about a position you had with another person and you simply couldn’t figure out why he or she just could not agree with you? It seemed so obvious and so darn right. “What is the matter with you? Can’t you see that I am right?”

In this article I want to look closely on the matter of different perspectives and how our own perspective shapes what seems right and wrong. Seeing something from a different perspective can raise your own awareness and enable you to find better solutions, especially if you have a lot of arguments with other people within your work or private life.

My Perspective, is it real?

The reason of the argument is that the other person has a different perspective on things. He is looking through his pair of glasses to the world, as well as we all do. This means that we filter everything by our personal history, our beliefs, motivations and concepts that we hold true.

But it is important to know that they are not necessarily true for other people. What seems to me true can be wrong for a person that has a different personal history. And if this person disagrees with me and if I would be in his shoes now, I would probably disagree with the current me too.

I have encountered many examples where different perspectives just collide with each other, especially in my work. It usually is not a discussion about right or wrong, or black or white. Mostly it is more complicated.  Seen from different perspectives an action seems to be desirable but on the other hand also dangerous and possibly destructive. Both sides usually have their points. So you have to find the sum of all perspectives and then operate within it to find a suitable solution.

A simple example would be to add advertising to a website. The user doesn’t seem to like it, but can he accept it? The website-owner needs to pay the traffic and want to make some extra money for his efforts. But can he also overdo it? Either perspective doesn’t supply a perfect solution, but taking both perspectives into account enables the solution of moderate advertising.

The value of seeing another perspective

Often we are afraid that seeing the other perspective then could lead to us losing the argument … or worse, to get a disadvantage. But the true value of another perspective lies within seeing more of a situation and therefore being able to make a better judgment for ourselves. And not only for ourselves but for the other person too.

The key is often to include the perspective of the other person (which is also the essence of thinking win/win, a win situation for both parties). It can lead to true solutions instead of compromises. I remember the interesting story of Stephen Covey who had a friend who said that going for win/win is dangerous because you can be taken advantage of. He continued with his negotiating example and how he did not get the best deal. Covey struck him with the question “Why did you go for lose/win?” As it dawned to him that he did not go for win/win but really lose/win, it was like a revelation for him.

So it can take some courage to see the perspective of the other person, acknowledge it and then look for the best solution for both. It requires the discipline to show the perspective to the other person too and to go for this win/win solution.

Switch perspectives: How to see through the eyes of another person

The best way to do this is by empathic listening. This means that you listen to the other person and try to see the world as he/she sees it. This does not mean that you give up your perspective. It means that you add another viewpoint. If this corrects your viewpoint a bit, then this is nothing to be afraid of. On the contrary, it is great: you just got a more correct picture of the issue.

You have to switch sides then and the other person has to listen to you. Again, Stephen Covey describes it on his book “7 habits of highly effective people ” as habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

If you are for your own, maybe you see something on television, you can also expand your perspective and try to see the world through the eyes of other people first, before judging them. This sounds easier than it is. Only if you can understand the actions of others, if you can feel their motives within you, you can truly say that you see their perspective. Otherwise there is a certain amount of ignorance, which ultimately means that there is a too narrow perspective. Of course, feeling their motives doesn’t mean to agree with them, but to understand them.

The process of personal growth is also the process of broadening your own perspective. It is the process of becoming aware of deeper principles and of including more than our own ego into our perspective.

Broaden your perspective

Scene from Dead Poets Society

In the great movie Dead Poets Society (see the “Carpe diem” part at Youtube ) there is the teacher Mr. Keating encouraging the students to climb on the table to look at the class-room from a new perspective. It indeed looks different from up there.

If you get a bigger picture you get a perspective that is able to solve a situation that seemed unsolvable first. Albert Einstein said “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” This is very true with perspectives. If you look at the current problems of even wars, of course both sides think they are on the right side. From their perspective their actions are totally logical and the right thing to do. But it is a too narrow perspective. If both sides would be able to broaden their perspective and realize that humanity does not end at the border of their own country, that at the core we are all the same and seeking happiness no matter where we are, then this would be the first step to get sane again. Real solutions get in a range of possibility again. You may say “but it is not that easy”, well then broaden your perspective. If you look at planet earth from space and you see two countries at war, would you say this is the right thing to do? If no, then you found a perspective that is broad and aware enough to find a better way. You can get to the details once the basic agreement has been made in the mind.