Different Perspectives

By Chris Chittenden

“Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins”

… North American proverb

Have you ever had an “aha” moment? You know, a time when the light bulb went on and you got it. Really got it! Saw things in a way that you had not seen before and it was like you were looking at the world through new eyes.

As coaches, we are privileged to often find ourselves in the presence of someone having an “aha” moment and one of the most common catalysts for this is a simple idea – that “we all see the world differently”. Even though most people would see this as self-evident when they reflect on their own and others’ uniqueness, it is something that most do not use as a context for their daily living. Even though this uniqueness of perspective makes sense on reflection, in any given moment most of us tend to assume that what we see is what everyone sees. So what does this mean? Why is this an “aha” moment?

To see the power of this distinction, we need look no further than something that happens to people everyday – dealing with a problem. If I see the problem on the basis that everyone should see it simply because I do, then I will engage in conversations that start from this premise. I would most likely initiate conversations to resolve the “problem” and expect others to engage in these conversations almost immediately. If they do not engage as I expect, then I might think they are difficult to deal with or stupid or any of the myriad of reasons we can think of to explain their inability to help me resolve the “problem”.

On the other hand, what do we do if we start from the premise that we all see the world differently? To begin with, from this basis we can assume at the beginning that others may not see the problem we see. This awareness leads us down a different conversational path. Rather than quickly starting in to resolve the problem, I can begin with a conversation to establish a shared understanding of the “problem”. This provides a solid basis on which to have more effective conversations as we will be engaging in a discussion where ultimately our focus will be on a perception that we share rather than talking at cross-purposes as too often happens.

In other words, when we genuinely get that we each observe the world in our own unique way, we have different conversations. Rather than having conversations about things, we have conversations about how people perceive things and it is others’ perceptions that are the key to generating more effective outcomes. As coaches, when we listen to people’s conversations, we can get a good sense of how well they appreciate the idea of “different observers”. We invite you to listen to your own conversations to see how well you have this appreciation. It may well provide you with your own “aha” moment.

More articles on Being Human
More articles on Relationships & Communication

© 2005 Chris Chittenden