How many times have we heard someone say, “Let’s put this in perspective”. When I hear this statement my initial reaction is almost always, “whose perspective, yours or mine?” Our perspective is usually based on the way WE see things, is drawn from a collection of life experiences, reference points and influences, all of which serve to support our current beliefs. Many of us have experienced misunderstandings we can later trace back to nothing more than a clash of perspectives. “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth”. Marcus Aurelius
Let’s take a closer look at three areas of our lives in which perspective plays a key role.
* Problem Solving And Adversity. How we approach problems and handle adversity is based on what I call our “conditioned perspective”. For example, some people hold onto the belief the world is “out to get them” while others view the world as a limitless “land of opportunity”. Again, it is worth noting that our perspective is brought about by our own unique life experiences and influences. Those who believe the universe is conspiring against them can always find “proof” to build their case. Others who believe the universe rewards people who work hard and are willing to sacrifice can also supply “proof” for their position. When we find ourselves struggling to find a solution to a problem or an adverse situation, it is always a good idea to step back and look at it from a different perspective. “Our way” may not be the most effective way to achieve a desired result. Many times simply looking at something from a different perspective will provide the clarity we need to create a breakthrough.
* Communication. How we communicate with others is generally based on our perspective. Two people can hear the same thing and have an entirely different reaction. For example, let’s say I grew up and was heavily influenced by a parent who was a perfectionist. Routinely, they let me know both verbally and non-verbally (by a distinct look or gesture) I didn’t do anything right. As an adult, whenever a person in authority offers me advice, I instinctively perceive it as criticism rather than positive feedback. Surprisingly, millions of people function with this type of skewed perspective and spend their lifetime struggling to get along, receive promotions or enjoy a healthy, peaceful relationship with friends and family. If on the other hand I grew up in a nurturing childhood environment where I was encouraged to do new things, accept failure as part of my growth and was not berated for doing things “wrong” then my perspective toward authority is going to be vastly different and I will be more likely to embrace feedback.
* Human Relations. Recently, I engaged in a “clash of perspectives” with a neighbor. My neighbor leaves his dogs alone while he is at work. I work from home and my office is approximately 50 ft from his living room window. Throughout the day, all summer long, I have listened to his dogs bark. I left him a note on his door, to which he responded “he never leaves his dogs alone”. Shortly thereafter, I called him at work to let him know his dogs were again barking out of control. He responded by telling me “he had checked with all of his other neighbors and I was the only person who had heard any barking coming from his home”. Eventually, I began making audio / video recordings highlighting the excessive dog barking and was able to garner support from other neighbors who were also subjected to the excessive dog barking. I submitted this information to our neighborhood HOA director. Even with conclusive proof, my neighbor still continued to claim I was simply “out to get him”. From my perspective my neighbor should not have dogs if he is unwilling to take responsibility for their care. From my neighbors perspective, I am attempting to make trouble for him and I should mind my own business. Wars are started, crimes committed, marriages end and friendships often severed because of a clash of perspectives. When conflicts arise it is a good idea for both parties to step back and take a look at things from the other person’s point of view. By engaging in this process, we may be able to better understand the other person’s perspective and ultimately find some common ground.
3 ways we can maintain a healthy perspective.
* Practice Objectivity. Look at issues and situations from the other person’s perspective. Seek to understand their point of view. This doesn’t mean we are going to change our mind, however it provides us with a better sense of where the other person may be coming from and how we can respond more effectively. When we find ourselves embroiled in a clash of perspectives it is always a good idea to step back and look at both sides of the issue with an objective set of eyes.
* Perspectives vs Expectations. Is it our true perspective or is it an expectation? For example, my parents believe a couple should be married before they live together. My perspective is more weight should be placed on how we treat our fellow man than on legalistic doctrine. Because of this “difference in perspectives” my parents may not visit our home for the holidays. Is this a “clash of perspectives” or is it a rigid expectation that is not being acknowledged? Looking at something from an objective point of view will often give us permission to release our death grip on expectation.
* Origin Of Perspective. Where did our current perspective originate? Past experiences, another person of influence, present reality or what we perceive to be societal expectations? All of these factors contribute to our current point of view. When we find ourselves engaging in a clash of perspectives it is wise to identify the origin and determine whether it is serving our greater good. Many of us are looking at things from a very “outdated” perspective and we simply need to upgrade our view.
This is my perspective on things. I would love to hear your perspective and as always I appreciate and respect your feedback.