“The greatest tragedy for any human being is going through their entire lives believing the only perspective that matters is their own.” – Doug Baldwin
In a recent sermon our pastor highlighted the importance of considering more than one perspective. His visual aid was several pictures of a giant sturgeon taken from various angles, in some it looked small and then eventually being held by 4 large men – it was a very big fish.
The angle from where we see a person, an event, an entire history, journey, movie will inform the “truth” in our heads and hearts. Different perspectives give us different angles of the “truth”. Where is she going with this? We could of course go into a lengthy existential or philosophical debate about “what is truth?” or even “What is reality?”
However, what is weighing on my mind on this topic is relationships. In our work with leadership teams that are stuck, have dysfunctional relationships, or out of control conflict, it is always the limitations on perspective that surprises me. When we coach through a team interaction that did not end well, I often hear a sentence ending with “…… and that is what should have happened. That would be normal, right?”
It is difficult to accept various versions of normal, various interpretations of the truth, of reality when your entire value system, and self-esteem is hinged on your version of reality. Therefore, by igniting change and opening up the possible variations of reality, truth, and events, the gain can be exponential.
The first win is a better understanding of ourselves. “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anais Nin. When we understand which voices or experiences informed our worldview, perspectives, and beliefs, it may in itself become an exercise of perspective.
The next big win is better relationships, all people appreciate being heard from the space that they exist in at the time. Stressed relationships, in and outside of work, compromises our openness, growth and safety. Continued relational strain in leadership teams can become a cultural cancer that will compromise the overall performance of the organization. Great working relationships open up possibilities, create psychological safety and belonging.
Being open to different perspectives is crucial for effective planning, and comprehensive problem solving. It opens the doors to innovative ideas which may have been overlooked or squashed otherwise.
Finally, making a concerted effort to learn about new perspectives fosters personal growth. In our globalized, and hyperconnected world, this is almost a requirement for professionals in all industries. Increasing our curiosity and understanding of different perspectives enables us to become well rounded, empathetic, and thoughtful individuals who actively contribute to a harmonious and inclusive society.
Marilee Adams illustrates the journey to being open to other’s perspectives in her “Choice Map”. (Change your questions, change your life, Marilee Adams PhD)
Whenever we are faced with a different perspective, a new reaction, or something deviant from our own “normal”, we have a choice:
Judge, be all self-righteous, and diminish the other person’s perspective, reaction, or actions; or,
Be Curious, ask sincere open-ended questions to understand the other perspective. By seeking to understand and respect others, we pave the way for a brighter, more compassionate future for all. Let us celebrate the uniqueness of each individual, for it is through diversity that we find our greatest strength.