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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Seeing from a Different Perspective

It's not always easy to see a different perspective. Take for example the picture here. Do you see a young woman or an old woman? Each is correct, but it depends on the perspective you see.

Sometimes our upbringing has empowered us to feel there is only one way to see a situation, a perspective, a point of view. Growing up surrounded by a certain political position may prevent us from seeing an issue differently.

Sometimes the other person and our misconceptions or assumptions cloud our ability to listen to the point of view of someone else. Having a negative encounter with a parent who comes into the office yelling and screaming at your office staff makes it harder to hear what they have to say because you're still in protective mode with what happened to your staff.

Sometimes our eyes deceive us and what we think we are seeing isn't what is really happening.

Sometimes our perspective is tied up in past experience, like getting a call from the principal means my child has done something wrong.

But strength in leadership means stepping out of self and trying to stand in the shoes of someone else to better understand the scenario. What motivates someone else's actions?

One way to make this mental shift is to play the role of a neutral bystander. What might that person see and think is taking place and can you bring yourself to view a situation that way? While the expectation doesn't mean you necessarily have to agree with the person, understanding why they think that way does help get through the scenario to a resolution, especially if your goal is win/win.

My former sister in law was adamant that my brother's children would not attend public schools. Having committed my life to public education, to say I was offended was an understatement. I knew her neighborhood school would provide a caring, nurturing, academic environment for my nephews. A colleague overheard me sending her messages and helped me see a different perspective. "There are some adults who grew up educated only in private schools, and because of their experience, you can't change their mind so stop trying. They are only going to see their perspective as the right one for their child," he said.

I have to admit...that was all I needed to hear. He was right. When I've engaged in discussions over the years with those who saw private schools as the only option, they were almost all raised with a private school education. I would never be successful in trying to change their minds, so I let go of the rope.

Granted, not all perspectives held by another person is absolute. Through discussion you can generally find some middle ground to land and connect...and move on to more pressing issues.

Take the picture below. Look at it closely. What do you see?

Two blocks of gray?

Very good.

Now look at it, but put your finger where the white line is located.

Now what do you see? Is your perspective different?

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