Seek Out A Different Perspective

I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked, and mine might not be.”

You may have seen a version of this quote floating around on social media over the last several weeks. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue and the US (and other countries) wrestle with the question of when and how to ease restrictions in an attempt to return to ‘normal’, it has become even more apparent that the complex issues of this pandemic carry with them a plurality of experiences and perspectives. When making decisions about what’s next, what seems obvious to one person may seem uncaring to another. Which reminds me of an ancient parable…

If you’ve heard the ancient South Asian parable of blind men describing an elephant, you may have simply found it amusing, or you might have related it to a particular team project you were working on at the time. I wonder, though, how often in our daily lives we each face challenges in the workplace – or in our life outside of work – and we are convinced we understand the issue based on what’s in front of us, but in fact we’re like one of those people describing an elephant as a spear or a snake… We cannot understand the full scope of what’s in front of us unless we seek out other perspectives.

This week’s tip:

Make it a daily practice to seek out a different perspective on something you feel you understand. This might be a workplace challenge or project you’re working on, or something broader. In seeking out different perspectives, look for perspectives from colleagues and friends (not from news sources) – knowing someone already will give you a wider context for what you hear. Listen to understand. Hold yourself back from countering what they say, and instead thank them for sharing their perspective and take some time to reflect on it afterwards, to see if what others said helps reshape or refine your own views.

Try it out and let us know how it goes – we’d love to hear from you. And if you’d like to dive into this deeper, Psychology Today has a useful piece on the importance of taking the perspective of others.

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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