By: Ally Hoffman, MA, LPC Associate
Supervised by Melissa Barton, MA, LPC-S
Perspective Taking to Problem-Solve
We have all been there, uncomfortable and frustrated because we aren’t quite seeing eye-to-eye with someone we are conversing with. While both parties might’ve been involved in the original situation, we find ourselves having to face the inevitable fact that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and what truly happened. Ideally, it would be the responsibility of both individuals to assess their feelings and articulate their perspectives with the hopes that the other will find compassion for their experience and vice versa. In practice, while both parties might not agree on how everything played out, they are able to find common ground in the experience. This ultimately leads to more compassion and even resolution.
Unfortunately, here in the United States, we are not set up for success in this endeavor. Our culture encourages individualism which is great for developing identity and a strong sense of self. However, the same idea lends itself to divisiveness – drawing us further apart rather than working to collaborate and compromise to meet both parties’ needs, even if that does not include one hundred percent agreement on the matter.
Agreeing to Disagree
In both my professional and personal life, I have found that agreeing to disagree is somewhat of a lost art. A lot of times, I think most of us really enjoy the simplicity that comes with being right – no arguments, no drama, no discourse, just solace and peace knowing you were, in fact, correct. As a result, others are left feeling wrong or rejected when in fact, maybe the truth is somewhere in between. It may be easier to make sense of the world and black and white, but the world truly operates in shades of gray. If we focus less on our ego and the fact of being right, we could possibly connect more to one another with growing compassion for the experiences each of us is having. Even offering yourself a moment to learn something new or see things in a different light.
The problem lies in the fact that we get defensive when we feel we need protection. Whether the protection is for our physical self, emotional self, or otherwise. As a society, we tend to write off opposing viewpoints instead of taking them into consideration. I speculate this is because the opposition acts as a potential threat to our need for belonging and acceptance. So, as a result, we become very protective even over our intellectual property.
Perspective-taking Does Not Have to Spark Conflict
In other words, we become very protective over our own experiences. Thus, encouraging the polarity between the two people. Being protective and sharing our perspective is more than okay so long as we try to refrain from defensiveness to the best of our ability. Defensiveness itself can work to deflect attention from the original issue or even act as a buffer for the shame and other negative emotions that arise in moments of discourse.
Knowing that defensiveness is likely to happen, we are offered an opportunity to open our minds and hearts up to be curious about the defensiveness and use it as a chance to understand our own and the other person’s internal world a bit better. Inherently, this requires trust. Trust in ourselves to ensure we are upholding boundaries that hold us steady and keep us feeling safe and secure. While, at the same time, trusting others to hold the information we share and not using it to retaliate while both are holding a vulnerable position. Having a clear understanding of that position prior to moving forward can be the antidote that irradiates the need for unhealthy conflict.
Perspective-taking: Putting the Shoe on the Other Foot
Instead, both parties can approach the situation by practicing compassion and understanding with the idea that both hold the need for resolve and both have the need to feel seen, heard, and understood. Offering that space for them to explain themselves without judgment or preconceived notions allows us, the receivers of the information, to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes for a moment and consider what it might have been like on their end.
While it may not be easy to accept responsibility and have someone hold us accountable, it is important that we take responsibility for our part as a means to connect better and build a relationship with the person on the other end. When reciprocated, we also have that same opportunity to hold them accountable and have the same recognition and reprieve they might have felt in their share. Ultimately, it takes an incredible amount of courage to do this! Courage to trust, courage to share, courage to accept rejection, courage to accept responsibility. It is EVERYONE’s job to find that courage and channel it into positive outcomes rather than divisive attitudes and defensiveness.
Begin Therapy in Katy, TX!
Looking to learn more about how better understand others’ perspectives? One of the therapists at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch can help! We provide mental health counseling, as well as other mental health services. To begin counseling in Katy, TX follow these three steps:
- Contact our office to set up an appointment or to learn more information
- Meet with one of our knowledgeable therapists
- Start feeling more seen, heard, and understood!
Other Therapy Services We Offer:
Here at The Counseling Center at Cinco Ranch, we offer counseling services for people of all ages in areas including counseling for kids, counseling for young adults, teen counseling, couples counseling, eating disorder treatment, men’s issues, women’s issues, anxiety treatment, depression therapy, trauma counseling, family therapy, and group counseling. Our therapists strive to post blogs regularly. We provide helpful information on a variety of mental health topics. To learn more about our therapists and our counseling services, please reach out to the Counseling Center today!