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.

Give Yourself a Little Love This Valentine’s Day

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The new year can bring regrets and resolutions to do better in the future.  Yet, reminding yourself about these regrets can stop you from giving yourself the love you need to have a happy future.

Many psychologists, including Erich Fromm, have asserted that you can’t fully love another person until you fill love yourself.  So how do you do this? You have to stop judging yourself. And stop seeking others’ approval of you.

You Are Unique

Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are lovable because you are this unique individual, this whole and real person.

Negatively Judging Yourself

What is it specifically that you don’t accept about yourself? Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

I failed to…

I shouldn’t have…

I wish I were…

I need…

People would say I am…

I am…

I am proud of…

If only…

Do some of your responses indicate that you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable? Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others? Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

Change the Negative to Neutral

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes? You probably let the mistakes other people make slide so why not do that for yourself?

Focus on the Present

Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past, you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present. Staying in the present gives you a fresh start to be all that you are.

Love Your Uniqueness

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses, but those are what make you a unique person, so you don’t have to hide or become defensive about them? You are a unique individual, with your own set of strengths and weaknesses. That does not make you better than or less than another person—just different—and you are usually loved for that difference. You no longer need to seek approval from others because you have given yourself approval of both your strengths and weaknesses.

Accept Yourself

Can you accept yourself just as you are now—unconditionally—free of any qualifications? If you catch yourself judging your appearance, personality, or actions, let that judgment go.  Replace the judgment with a loving kindness towards yourself.  Judging one’s self is the opposite of loving one’s self.

Now that you have given yourself this unconditional love you can begin to give it to others.