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Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH


Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

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Can You See Things Differently?

Posted on June 12, 2017 at 1:30 PM

You think you have the right and best way of doing (insert activity). In fact, you insist that you know you're right and your (insert person-partner/friend/co-worker/boss/child/parent) is wrong. Where does this lead you? Usually to a disagreement, disappointment, or a feeling of being disgruntled. In reality, there is no right or wrong way. So, why do we get so hung up on seeing things from our own perspective?


The way we view the world matters. In fact, this interpretation has a direct impact on how we feel, which influences how we behave. It can feel very natural and easy to concentrate on our own perspective and not consider the perspectives of others.


In my practice, we often work on a mental stretching exercise in which we try to develop alternative explanations for the behavior of other people as well as understand a situation from another perspective. Trying to see the situation differently has a lot of benefits, including the development of cognitive restructuring skills.


Being able to see a situation from another perspective does not mean that you agree, disagree, accept or reject someone else's viewpoint. It just means that you value multiple perspectives on an issue and can expand your thinking. You may ultimately decide that your original opinion is still best for you, but you may be more compassionate towards the other person. Sometimes you will amend or change your viewpoint by incorporating other perspectives.


To illustrate this, consider the following situation. You are standing in line at the supermarket and perceive that the cashier is moving too slowly scanning your items for you. Your first thoughts attribute this slowness for lack of skill or caring for the job. This results in frustration, negative judgment, and a potentially not so nice interaction. When you consider alternatives from the cashier's perspective, you can develop the following options that the cashier 1- cares very much about their job that they don’t want to make a mistake; 2-love their work and enjoy going slowly; 3- just got yelled at by their supervisor for making a mistake; 4- dealt with an aggravated customer earlier who said the cashier bagged too quickly and broke their glass jar of sauce; 5- they don't feel well; 6- they do not in fact care about their job; 7- they have a physical disability. You may be able to come up with even more possibilities. In doing this, you are expanding your viewpoints and cognitive abilities and may even be kinder both to yourself as well as the other person.


Challenge yourself today. Try to see things differently. Try for even a moment to be in someone else's position. You may learn a lot about yourself and your world.

Categories: meaningful living, positive psychology

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