Can you allow yourself to see things the way “they” are (differently), or are you stuck in seeing them the way “you” are? Do you permit new perspectives?
How often have you heard someone say: “from my perspective, I….”?
I have heard perspectives defined as: the appearance of things relative to one another as determined by their distance from each other, where they are viewed from or relative to our understanding of their views. Interesting, isn’t it? A few words stand out for me. Appearance, which implies that it may or may not be real. Relative, which suggests the relationship of one or more things to each other. Views, which indicates that things can be seen differently, depending on where it is that we are looking at them from. Also the word “I” features therein – something I consider relevant as you may remember me saying: “we don’t see things the way they are – we see things the way we are”.
What was that? Did you say perspectives?
I am writing today’s blog from beautiful Munich, Germany where fittingly for today’s topic, I have spent the last week. Apart from the language, people do see so many things so differently here. I also spent time in magnificently historical Prague and then a number of days in the former East Germany at a family reunion of over 4 generations of our vast European family. Wow, did we see a range of very different perspectives there…!
I love to work with perspectives in my coaching work. One of the primary values coaches bring to the party is that we can help you look at things differently. Not that any of those views are necessarily right or wrong, or good or bad. Just different. Different from the way you may be accustomed to look at them. Simply to challenge your “conventional” way of looking at them and to ask you to think of a range of different views. That could also help to take any value judgment out of the equation.
Speaking of that, I sometimes find clients “looking up” to or admiring older or more experienced or more “successful” people, and perhaps putting a value judgment on themselves in comparison. This “judgment” implies a vertical scale, where someone is seen to be “higher up” that scale, or seen to be “better” than us, right? If we would simply take that same view, and place it on a horizontal scale instead, we would take all the value judgment out of it and then one might see the comparison quite differently – perhaps that the person has simply been doing “it longer” than us. Different view, isn’t it? A different perspective.
I like to use perspective in my diplomacy grooming and training. I teach my clients to “put themselves in the other person’s shoes” and try to look at whatever we are dealing with from their perspective, i.e. to ask themselves: “how might XYZ look at this?” Or to ask: “how might I be able to see this or look at this from a different perspective?“ In doing so, we automatically have to acknowledge that there might be more than one way – more than our current way of looking at something. That there could be multiple perspectives to any situation or idea or challenge etc. This is akin to the classic reframe, which uses the same principle. Please refer to my blog: Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself to read more about this.
We recently dealt with people either “seeing” things, or preferring to “hear” things or better to “feel” things or to be more focused on the “detail”. Perspective can be used so well if we differentiate the “big picture” from looking at it in “great detail”. If you have the palm of your hand touching your nose, you can’t see your fingers, right? All you have to do is to move your hand away from your face – and there they are. Giving you different perspective. This is akin to “standing back” and having a look at it more strategically, say at arms length, rather than being caught up in the detail of it.
Some practical examples
- If we are stuck in a conversation or situation or problem, I have learned to ask: “what if this weren’t a problem right now? How might I be able to look at it then?” Einstein already said that the thinking that got us into a problem in the first place is hardly going to be able to get us out of it – to resolve it we will need to change our thinking.
- I like to help my clients challenge situations by having them clarify:“what is the worst that can happen?” and than to ask:”what is he best that can happen?” so we can assess any of the more likely options between those extreme points. That way we can quickly and often easily find numerous possible perspectives any of which can lead to a better solution.
- Or maybe you can consider the perspectives two people from very opposite ends of a spectrum might have: for example how might a highly intellectual or academically educated individual look at some thing versus how might a more practical, “street-smart” trades-person look at the same situation? Neither is better or worse or necessarily right or wrong – just different. I recall dealing with the industrial relations chapter of a “mini MBA” course I did early in my corporate career in South Africa, where part of a group of very business focused young managers were looking at the world from a “management productivity” and short term results point of view. The lecturer was a renowned personality that represented a massively trade union skewed position, highlighting the fact that the disenfranchised black worker’s only possible ability at that time to excercise any political say was through his more orchestrated union approach. Would you believe that the discourse across those two very widely disparate positions resulted in us covering substantially more ground and that we learned so much more because of the distance between the two perspectives?
- How often have we “sent an email in anger” and immediately regretted it? My clients learn to “park” important emails in their “drafts” folder for at least half an hour. When they then revisit the email, the initial anger or emotion will probably have passed and the distance they have given it often gives them the right perspective that often leads to a more considered and usually more successful outcome.
- I have also learned to use perspective as a “worry diluter”.
So what if you could use this article this week to help you “stand back” when you find yourself facing a challenge – any challenge, and to see how many different perspectives you can help yourself find before making a decision or taking any action? What if you did and you found yourself getting some better results than if you might “just rush in”?
I hope this article gives you some different perspectives that will help enrich your position, enrich your options and indeed enrich your outcomes.