The Benefits from Understanding Another Point of View

Seeing Differently

It is easier to interact with people who have the same opinions that you do.  It is easier to stay in your own social media silo.  You may not have even considered thinking about things from another person’s perspective.

Yet there are many benefits to understanding another person’s thoughts, motives, and emotions. Taking the other person’s perspective can help you (a) reduce conflict, (b) solve problems more effectively, and (c) enlarge your view of yourself.

To understand another’s perspective you need to first set aside your own thoughts and feelings.  This distancing from your own perspective is difficult to do because you probably often listen only to judge what you are hearing. You make assumptions and come to conclusion about the other person’s message without really hearing what that person is trying to tell you.  So, try suspending judgment and open your eyes, ears, and heart to what the other person is saying.

Reducing Conflict

If you understand the other person’s point of view you can tell that person what you understand.  That person then feels heard and more willing to listen to your point of view. 

For example, someone may say all rap music is created by men with very little education.  You, on the other hand, like rap music and find a lot of social value in it.  Instead of trying to convince that person of your point of view, just repeat back the essence of what you heard, that “all rap music represents uneducated males’ opinions.  Then you can state your view with an example from the musical “Hamilton”.  The other person might then acknowledge that some rap music can be enlightening. The conflicting opinions now are reduced as each of you realized there is more than one way to view rap music.

Solving a Problem

When presented with a difficult problem to solve, whether it is a personal one or a workplace one, it often helps to get another person’s view of it.  Again, though, you have to set aside your opinions and judgments in order to really hear and accept a different point of view.  That different point of view might be just the one to solve the problem or add to your view to see the problem in a more nuanced way.  There always is more than one solution to a problem but it is necessary to be open to that solution.

Maybe the problem is solving the homeless crisis and you have several solutions you want to present to your local officials.  Have you ever thought of asking some homeless people what they think might be a solution? You might be surprised to hear they have some good suggestions that you had not thought of.  Yet, if you only apply your own solutions to the problem, the problem may not be as effectively solved.

Seeing Yourself in a New Way

Considering other people’s points of view enlarges the way you see yourself.  By intently listening to another person, you begin to see that person not just in terms of your previous stereotypes, but in their commonalities with you. 

The part we don’t want to see in our self is often the part we don’t want to see in another person.  We might have some bull-headed opinions, just like the other person has.  And, if we engage with that person, we might recognize the same way we defend our opinion without listening to the other person’s opinion.  We may discover that, contrary to social media trying to convince us that we don’t have anything in common with people who have beliefs other than our own, we can see what we do have in common.

By suspending our judgment of others and really listening to them we can go from me to we.

Science’s Advice for President Elect Biden

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Missing Piece

President Elect Biden must now unite us in meeting the challenges of the pandemic, the economy, the climate, and social ills. To do this, he can use a powerful tool of science, modeling.

Modeling is observing a person showing a particular behavior and then engaging in that behavior. One learns to behave a certain way just by observing a person behaving that way. And, if the model gets a reward for a particular behavior, it is even more likely the observer will engage in that behavior.

For example, watching a person on a television program or on social media show kindness and honesty in interactions with others, inspires the viewer to show kindness and honesty. The viewer might also see that person rewarded for those behaviors by the recipient smiling and saying “thank you”. Likewise, watching a person insulting others and repeating lies increases those behaviors in the viewer, especially if there is a reward for doing so. The reward can be as simple as then feeling superior over others.

When the President of the United States models bigotry and lying, followers see these behaviors as ones that will get them what they want. When the President of the United States models respect and honesty, followers will show each other the same. 

President Elect Biden can demonstrate listening with empathy and then acting with compassion. If he models these behaviors on social media, he can heal the divide as more and more people begin to show these behaviors towards each other.

If he models these behaviors in his interactions with politicians, he will increase the chance that those politicians will also show these behaviors in developing a consensus where everyone wins.

Modeling is such a powerful learning device that even advertisers use it to get viewers to buy their product. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi were prosocial models who were able to inspire global social change. Now President Elect Biden will have no difficulty consistently modeling prosocial behaviors that are his second nature.  These behaviors will then bring us together to create a better country for all of us. We will learn to listen to each other rather than denigrating those who think or act differently from us. Empathy, respect, compassion, and honesty come naturally to him. And, because these are the behaviors of love, if we all start showing them, they can replace hate.

Bandura, A. (1986., Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. (pp. 169-195).

Bandura, A. (1965). Influence of models’ reinforcement contingencies on the acquisition of imitative responses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1, 589-595.

Palmer, B.B. (2018). Love demystified: Strategies for a successful love life. St. Petersburg, Florida: Booklocker.

Give Love to Get Love

John Hain/Pixabay

We all want to be loved.  But how do we feel loved instead of lonely, especially now during this pandemic?  Surprisingly, ancient texts might give us an answer.

More than a thousand years ago the stoic, Hecato, asserted, “If you would be love, love”. And a similar sentiment can be found in the Bible (“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”). Even Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you would be loved, love, and be loveable.”

What all these wise people knew was that to get love, you have to give love. Give a love that is a deep caring for the well being of another person. That person may not look like you, act like you, or even believe in what you believe. But you can extend a loving hand to that person.

One of the best ways to extend a loving hand is through volunteering to enhance the well being of others. Volunteering can be anything from giving your time to giving your skills to help another person.  Most important is the care you are giving that person. A gentle touch or a loving word can mean so much to someone who is isolated or in need.

“But what is the love you are receiving by volunteering?” you may ask. Indeed, you may not feel like the other person reciprocated or even thanked you. Yet, it is in the giving, not the receiving that you feel love.

Doing something nice for another person gives you the social connection you may have been longing for. And it makes you feel better because you are focusing on someone else instead of the anxiety and loneliness you may be feeling. Indeed, research has shown that oxytocin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter, spikes in some people who regularly volunteer. The increase in oxytocin also helps you to better manage stressful events. 

Volunteering also has health benefits, such as lowering your blood pressure. Helping others can even lessen symptoms of chronic pain because it takes your mind off your worries. In fact, random acts of kindness light up the same reward centers of the brain associated with food and sex. A natural high occurs when you give to others.

Finally, volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. When you are isolated not only do you miss the social connection but you also start losing a sense of purpose. You can find meaning and direction (as well as an activity to just get out of the house) by helping others.

As you can see, the secrete the ancients knew is supported by today’s research into giving to others. So, now get out there and do for others what you would want done for you. Share the love.