P is for Perspectives
Updated: Sep 17, 2022
Perspective in the Cambridge Dictionary means: “a particular way of considering something or to think about a situation or problem in a wise and reasonable way”. Perspective in American English means: “a particular way of viewing things that depends on one’s experience and personality”.
There are over 7.8 billion people in the world today and every one of us thinks in a different way.
“We all have different perspectives on life. We all do take different decisions in life each day based on our convictions. We may take wrong or right decisions knowingly and or unknowingly. We may regard the decisions of others as right or wrong. We may have a right or wrong reasons to judge others. We have a choice to condemn or uplift others regardless of their situation. May we, instead of finding reasons to condemn, find reasons to uplift others.” Ernest Agyemang Yeboah
Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by many things including their life experiences, their values, their current state of mind and the assumptions that they bring to a situation.
“Some people could be given an entire field of roses and only see the thorns in it. Others could be given a single weed and only see the wild flower in it.
Some people’s automatic default is negative; convinced that things are bound to always go wrong; anticipating the worst and believing that negative outcomes will be permanent and unchangeable. Others think differently and are more positive and optimistic seeing failures or setbacks as temporary events caused by circumstances or challenges that can be overcome, fixed or simply accepted, in so doing, they tend to bounce back quicker and become more resilient.
“Every cloud has a silver lining” vs “Every rose has its thorn”
Optimists and pessimists tend to differ in terms of how they go describe the events that take place in their lives. These differences tend to be centred on the three P’s: permanence, personalisation and pervasiveness
“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane the pessimist invents the parachute.” George Bernard Shaw
It is important to understand the perspective of others because it helps us to understand different beliefs, feelings, experiences and intentions. When we can empathise and think about things from another point of view it allows us to move flexibly between our own perspective and that of another. By embracing these differences it also enables us to understand other aspects of ourselves that we might not discover unchallenged on our own. Being ready to see other perspectives is important in keeping our minds open, flexible and adaptable. Don’t be too quick to stop looking when think you have found a different perspective, because if you continue looking curiously and expanding your mind, further things can become apparent!
Being open to different perspectives and developing flexibility is crucial for a Growth Mindset. Sometimes we can have an opinion about something, been convinced that we were right, only to encounter previously unconsidered information or be introduced to a different viewpoint, which then prompts a whole new way of thinking and sets our minds off in a different direction.
“When a photographer can’t change a scene, he changes his angle and lens to capture the best of that scene. Similarly, when you can’t change a situation in your life, change your perspective and mindset to get the best out of that situation.” CrazyPolymath
Being friends with someone doesn’t mean that you have to agree on every issue and always share the same point of view.
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” Plutarch
It is about creating the space to allow self-expression, mutual learning, disagreement whilst maintaining respect of one and others point of views.
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” Alice Walker
Misunderstandings often arise because people fail to put themselves in another person’s shoes and fail to ask the right questions usually making assumptions instead.
“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, "What else could this mean?” Shannon L. Alder
A perspective is our reality of how we see the world; it’s unique to us and ours alone. Others may share similar views to us, which is why we can unify behind various causes, but each and every one of us experiences a different reality and has a different perspective on life.
“No two persons ever read the same book.” Edmund Wilson
To develop our ability to be open to other perspectives we need to develop various skills including listening, perspective-taking, perspective-seeking and perspective-coordinating.
Listening - It is difficult to listen to someone whose ideas you don’t agree with or who you are triggered by emotionally. It can be easy to allow personal prejudices to distract us from keeping an open mind to the validity of some points in a message regardless of speaker. Some people are full of new information and perspectives; if we listen fully, they may end up changing the way we currently think and feel; we should be open minded enough to have the courage to give them that chance. It begs the question what are we afraid of if we are not prepared to listen openly to the ideas and opinions of those who think differently to ourselves even if it only serves to clarify our own thoughts.
Perspective-taking - As human beings we have the capability to take a different perspective. Perspective-taking is about being able to understand a situation from the point of view of another person. It is about trying to imagine yourself as the other person, with their current life experience, their position, their role, etc and seeing what you would want or need and think about how you might react or feel if you were in their position. By developing this empathetic skill we can be more effective about assessing a situation and making future decisions.
Perspective-seeking is basically looking at things objectively rather having a bias. It is about seeing opinions simply as another perspective without attachment. The biggest trap we can fall into with perspective-seeking is to seek out people who share our point of view as a way to validate our opinions and any decisions we may need to make. If we can develop objectivity then it can help us discover potential blind spots in our thought processes and give us new insights. By reaching out to people, asking effective questions and getting a better understanding of another’s point of view, we learn to be authentically curious about new perspectives.
Perspective-coordinating Once we have seen things from another viewpoint and accessed new perspectives we need to coordinate the information through the processes of assimilation and/ or accommodation to comprehend how by considering new viewpoints it contributes or changes our current understanding.
We can learn a lot about other people by looking at the perspectives of others. When others express their views, it tells us a lot about themselves and how they see their world. We are then able to think about the impact of further conversations, decisions or situations that involve them and perhaps adjust the way we communicate, by using different language to relate more effectively.
When taking on board any perspective, it is important to consider how wide or small the perspective is e.g. Is it allowing you to see the bigger picture? Would any new information help widen the perspective or alter it completely? If so, how does this affect the validity of this point of view?
“We don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.” Steve Goodier
In order to build a better society, open-mindedness and diversity are needed. The world would be a better place if people understood that a perspective on life can be moulded, changed, or explained through better communication – both listening and speaking. A lot of arguments, problems and even wars might have been avoided if people had been able to see things from another perspective.
Being open to different perspectives is crucial for a growth mindset and developing empathy and connection. Having a curious mind, taking Educational courses or simply reading or discussing new things throughout our lives gives us the opportunity for lifelong learning and to build up our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world around us. This develops our ability to look at life from different perspectives and helps us build better relationships and have more accurately informed opinions.
If parents and schools taught children what perspective is, its importance and why we may need to alter our given perspective on life when faced with new information, it would help to raise more open-minded, empathetic, and socially responsible adults and this would improve society as a whole.
“One person’s craziness is another person’s reality.” Tim Burton
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
Do you have a negative or a more optimistic, positive default setting?
What stops you seeing other perspectives?
What skills do you need to practise to be able to see life through someone else’s eyes or a different angle?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started: