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.
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.