A source of much conflict in today’s relationships is our inability to see things from another person’s viewpoint.
However, by practicing a technique called “perspective-taking,” we can learn how to better resolve these social conflicts. And by doing this, we can start building stronger relationships in our lives.
One of the main assumptions behind perspective-taking is that looking at a problem from multiple viewpoints is almost always more informative than looking at a problem from only one viewpoint.
The problem with most people is that they get trapped in their worldview. They only look at things from a single perspective, and in return they ignore alternative ways of looking at a situation which may be just as valid.
Every problem in a relationship can be viewed from at least three perspectives
- Perspective of Self: This is how the problem is interpreted from your own experience, based on your own thoughts and feelings in that situation.
Perspective of Other: This is how the problem is interpreted from the experience of the other person involved in the situation, based on their thoughts and feelings.
Perspective of Third Party: This is how the problem is interpreted from someone who isn’t involved in the situation, but instead looking from a neutral, outside perspective (the “the fly on a wall” approach).
None of these perspectives are necessarily right or wrong. Instead, they each contain an important piece of the puzzle. Depending on the situation, there can be many different perspectives. For example, a strike looks very different from the viewpoint of a CEO, a worker, a customer and a supplier.
Solving a problem is almost always harder to do if a person only appreciates their viewpoint, but doesn’t consider the views of others. However, when we take into account everyone’s perspective, we are more likely to discover solutions that respect everyone’s needs.
Practice perspective-taking in your daily relationships
The better you are at perspective-taking, the stronger your relationships will become.
According to one recent study, using this technique of “perspective taking” can improve empathy in narcissists. And another promising study shows that even psychopaths and criminals may be able to flip on this “empathy switch” in their brains with deliberate practice.
Here are useful tips for improving your “perspective-taking:”
- Remember your perspective isn’t the only one in the world.
- When faced with a problem, walk yourself through everyone’s point-of-view.
- From each perspective ask, “What is this person thinking or feeling in this situation?”
- Try imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes. What does the world look like through their eyes? What’s it like to experience life as this person?
- Identify common ground.
- Acknowledge differences.
- Seek resolutions based on this new information. What are some ways to solve this problem while respecting everyone’s needs?
Now, perspective-taking probably won’t help you solve every problem in your relationships. However, using this technique can really improve understanding and ease conflict in the long-term.
Individuals who are successful at building relationships are almost always great at perspective-taking, whether they realize it or not.
Fortunately, even if this technique doesn’t come naturally to you, you can consciously practice perspective-taking over time. With dedication you will become much better at putting yourself in other people’s shoes, and you’ll find your relationships will dramatically improve.
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