Just last week I listened, with thinly veiled contempt, as a close, but obviously not too bright friend waxed philosophic, singing the praises of a contemptible, high profile politician.
I was about to put a stop to this foolishness and point out the errors in his thinking when I remembered a simple truth; my description of the value of this politician to him would sound as ridiculous as his did to me.
So rather than going through the futile exercise of educating him about how wrong he was I decided instead to do something different.
I granted myself permission to attempt to see the world through the eyes of my friend. I listened very carefully to all he was saying and worked hard at agreeing with it all. I began to see what he saw and, by so doing, changed slightly what I was seeing.
My friend was privy to many of the same details and facts as I was regarding this person and by pretending to be him, I was starting to accept, as fact, some of the same things he believed to be true.
I was practicing The Habit of Checking Your Perspective and in doing so, I was reminding myself that my viewpoint, my opinion, of this politician was not based upon any of the available facts known about him, but rather on my interpretation of those facts.
My friend, in viewing identical facts was placing an entirely different meaning on those facts, thus leading him to the (painfully wrong) perspective he was sharing with me.
The Habit of Checking Your Perspective is a sobering tool to have nearby at all times. It serves to remind us that while there are very few facts (irrefutable, indisputable and agreed upon by all) in the world, there is an abundance of opinions masquerading as facts.
Everything we believe to be true is true (for us) until it isn’t and whenever we believe something to be true, we present it as an absolute fact.
The Habit of Checking Your Perspective encourages us to be more empathic as we listen to the divergent opinions of those with whom we strongly disagree.
This empathy expands the boundaries of our own thinking and, while it may not cause us to change our own minds, it encourages us to see the world through the eyes of others.
By doing this during the conversation with my friend I began to understand why, and how, he could view this person in a light so very different from mine. And I was able to expand my own thinking to include the possibility (extremely remote) that there may be some (slim) value to what my friend was saying.
The power behind The Habit of Checking Your Perspective lies in its ability to defuse anger, set aside frustration and engage in earnest debate that enriches all sides without necessarily changing opinions.
And when we open our hearts and minds to the opinions of others, respect their differences while embracing sameness’s, we quickly realize that we are divided by perspective, not by facts and therefore can enjoy engaging debate, filled with differences of opinion, while retaining quality relationships and developing new ones.
As a wise friend once told me, there is a big difference between, “I agree” and “I understand”.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.