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Try to see things from the other perspective

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Try to see things from the other perspective

Scott Miker

Most people have a difficult time seeing things from any perspective but their own. You can sense this when you have a conversation with them and they seem completely blind to any other possible opinion.

In politics we see this quite a bit in the United States. Some of this is understandable due to the fact that we have a split in political parties where most people fall into one of two parties that hold very opposing views on important issues.

But even outside of politics this is an issue. It is an issue because people get locked into one aspect of a system and then cling to certain parts of the system without seeing the full system.

I see laborers talk about managers in a way to portray them as completely incompetent and irrational. I hear managers talk about laborers in a way to portray them as completely incompetent and irrational.

It can’t be that one side is completely right and one side is completely wrong here. Both sides are pushing for different agendas and hold different beliefs and principles.

That is fine but we still need to understand the other side. If we don’t we will constantly make decisions that seem one-sided. We won’t explore the full system and instead will simply look for a quick point to validate a belief we have.

A few years ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. He had recently been promoted to a new management position. Prior to that he worked alongside those people who he now manages.

He was struggling with it. I was listening to his frustrations but couldn’t stop thinking about how he changed his opinion of things since I last spoke with him.

When he was being managed along with the rest of the team, he criticized the manager. He said the manager just didn’t understand things from their perspective and was making horrible decisions.

But now that he was in this management position, suddenly all he could do was criticize his team for being lazy and selfish on the job.

You would think that being forced to see things from the other side would help them adjust their perspective to see both sides but unfortunately this rarely happens. Instead he just switched his perspective but kept just as extreme of a view of the other side. The other side, to him, was always wrong, and he was always right.

The point isn’t to criticize my friend, it is to show us how susceptible people are to gravitate to one point of view and disregard all others. We all do it at times. But if we truly want to better understand the systems in the world we have to start to see things from multiple perspectives before we make decisions.

In other words, it isn’t always us versus them. Many times we have to see that we are all in the same system.

The laborers get frustrated because the manager doesn’t see the detail that they see in the process but they don’t understand that they don’t see the high level view of all the processes when making decisions. Having a little more crossover in perspective can be helpful to avoid the conflicts that arise when both sides dig in and refuse to budge.

Years ago I fell into this idea of one-sided thinking in many areas of my life. I read a book that talked about how we can end a conflict immediately if we can truly see the other perspective and work towards a better resolution. At first I thought it was ridiculous but after applying that mindset several times I realized that when people face resistance they dig in. When you come at it with a different perspective they dig in less.

This doesn’t mean that you suddenly take their perspective. It means that after both sides presented their opinion that you don’t just continue to push your views. It is obvious that neither side feels they are wrong.

Now for me, this is a sign that says that we aren’t really hearing and understanding each other. Where I used to use this as a chance to try to make sure they understood my point of view, now I simply try to better understand their point of view.

There usually isn’t a perfect solution when two sides hold conflicting views. Instead of digging in, it is usually better to see that conflict as a gap in how we view the systems involved and to take a step back to see all the systems and how someone involved in one part of the system might hold a conflicting view than someone from another side of the system.