How people communicate and interact with others is a subject that fascinates me.
As human beings, our survival depends on human connection — and our connections depend on effective communication. Yet, miscommunication and conflict in human relationships are very common. As a mediator, I am always amazed at how differently each side can view the same situation. Today, I will share one element in effective communication: Perspective.
The Oxford dictionary defines “perspective” as a “particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” Recognizing our own perspective — and considering the point of view of others — is essential.
In our everyday lives, it is often difficult to truly view reality objectively. For example, look at this glass of water.
How you perceive its size (small or large) or fullness (partially empty or full) depends on the subjective circumstances in which you are viewing it. Where are you looking at it from? What is surrounding the glass? What colour is it? And so on . . .
Similarly, our perceptions and views also affect how we communicate with another person. Different people will perceive the same reality differently, depending on their background, their current situation, their personal beliefs, values, and motives.
Our perception of reality is a combination of objective and subjective circumstances. Our perception is often different than that of the person we are communicating with.
Try the following exercise:
Before starting an important conversation with a family member or colleague at work, stop and ask yourself,
“How might this person be feeling?”
“What are his or her values and beliefs?”
“What are his or her motives?”
Stand for a few moments in the other person’s shoes and try to view the situation from their perspective. Does it look different than your own perspective? This simple shift can be an eye opener, influencing the way you begin a conversation.