Right and Wrong
There seems to be one single causal factor behind virtually every conflict or misunderstanding clients and friends bring to me, regardless of how much personal development work they’ve done. We look at the world around us through very specific lenses and filters, and yet act as if what we’re perceiving and interpreting is objective reality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Each of us has a Framework of Understanding that perceptions must filter through. This Framework is made up of everything from inherent operating system characteristics to experiential “lessons learned,” to simple peer, parental, and media influence.
Imagine going through life unable to turn your head or move your eyes from one fixed position. Pretty limiting, right? You’ve probably been frustrated by someone not being able to see things from your perspective, especially when your perspective seems so reasonable, and of course “right.” Is it possible that someone else had that experience with you? When we boil it down to the core of most arguments, doesn’t it come down to something like: “I’m right, no I’m right?” As silly as this sounds when we look at it directly, we unconsciously get stuck in it, obstructing communication, cooperation, and collaboration. We see The Way to do or see something, so anything different must be wrong.
This also limits our ability to convey ideas, as we can get stuck conveying them in only one way. If you don’t understand, then you’re wrong in how you’re listening, or wrong in how you’re interpreting what I’m saying. Rather than look at things from another angle and perhaps re-stating in a way that you might understand, I could move tangentially into judgment, and lose any opportunity to really communicate or work with you toward a common solution.
Perception Follows Perspective
Let’s back up a little bit to see how our original premise was inaccurate. When we’re focused on how we’re seeing something being objective reality, we’re forgetting that what we perceive is driven by our perspective. One of my well-worn examples of this is the perception of a driver swerving as he drives down the street. From one perspective, we just see him swerving, and perceive him being a bad driver. From another perspective we see the puppy that ran into the street, and we perceive him as having great reflexes.
Our perception changed when our perspective changed. They’re inextricably linked to one another. Our perspective is influenced by new information, so when we learn more about something our perspective changes. Since our perceptions are tied to our perspectives, our perceptions change too. This means that our perception can’t be the only objective reality. It must be subjective; subject to that shift in perspective. This is enormously freeing, because now we know we don’t have to be so locked into one way of seeing things.
Maybe My Way is Several Ways
There are many reasons our perspectives change. Sometimes it’s about having more information, sometimes it’s about circumstances, and sometimes it’s about our emotional state. When we’re in stress or “survival mode,” we see things very differently than when things are going smoothly. This means that the exact same thing can look different to us, depending upon what’s going on. Something that’s no big deal when life is running smoothly can look huge when things are rough. This shows that we have multiple perceptions, right in line with our multiple perspectives. Staying conscious and aware of having these multiple ways of seeing things is where we can make a huge difference in our interactions with others. The more open and flexible we are with our assertions of how things are, or how they need to be done, the more we’re able to see others’ ways as being valid too. If something that looks scary to you on Monday can look fun on Saturday, why can’t it look fun to someone else on Monday?
This totally opens the door to better interactions and communication. The more we remember that we have different perspectives, the easier it is to see another person having different perspectives too. When we can see from their perspective, we can understand their perception, reduce conflict, and communicate with them more easily. Not only will we communicate with them more easily, we’ll connect with them on a deeper level as well, as judgment melts into understanding. When we’re less invested in being right and them being wrong, we often learn a lot too. How’s that for a win-win scenario?