Taking on a different perspective isn’t about trying to convince yourself to think differently. It’s not a forced way of thinking and seeing things. It’s also not an “ideal world” way of thinking.
Taking on a different perspective is a very real practice, and a very effective one when you get the hang of it. The key is taking yourself, and your own thoughts, completely out of the equation.
This brings us to the First Perspective Hack: Make Yourself Disappear.
Once you are no longer present (as a presence and a way of thinking), you can begin to put yourself in other people’s shoes in a very authentic way. You can actually see what they see, hear what they hear (even through their own thought filters), and feel what they feel.
Basically you just stop thinking altogether and turn your focus onto something more productive, like Hack #2.
Second Perspective Hack: Play The “What If?” Game.
Have you ever played the “What If?” game with your friends? What if you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? What if you were a movie star, what would that be like? What if you were the opposite sex? You get the picture.
In this version of the game you ask yourself a “What If?” question that is the opposite of what your initial thought is (because our initial thought is most likely not a “give them the benefit of the doubt” one).
For example: You’re in a really good mood and going about your day when all of a sudden the barista at your local coffee shop snaps at you because she has called out your grande triple shot sugar-free vanilla upside-down soy caramel macchiato three times and you still haven’t picked it up from the counter!
You have plenty of options here. You could think that she’s having a bad day, you could think she’s a negative person in general, you could think she has a really short temper, etc. All of these thoughts typically leave us in a slightly worse mood than we were in.
More often than not, our first thought about the way someone is being isn’t accurate. That’s why the “What If?” game is so effective. It gives us a chance to be fair to the other person, or the situation, and allow there to be a different reason than the one we made up in our minds.
Next time something negative happens, give the “What If?” game a try. In the example above we could think, “what if her boyfriend just broke up with her?”, “what if someone in her family just went to the hospital?”, or “what if her favorite pair of skinny jeans she always wears on Wednesdays is dirty so she had to wear something else?”
These “What If?” scenarios are most likely all false, but what it does is lets that other person off the hook for how they are being in that moment. How someone is being in a given moment is no indication as to who that person truly is. We’ve all had moments we weren’t proud of, and it would have been great if people treated us kindly, even when we weren’t so kind to them, right?
Third Perspective Hack: Ask For Their Intention, Rather Than Assuming What It Is.
Countless times I have saved relationships that could have gone sour, avoided confrontations (even fist fights), and circumnavigated what would have been a bad day by being direct and asking what someone’s intention was versus assuming what it was.
At first this takes courage. It also takes finesse. Remember that it’s all about how you are being when you ask. If you’re being defensive, assumptive, or blaming it’s not going to go well at all for you. It’s all about coming from an open, honest, and non-threatening place when you ask what their intention was with what they said or did.
Bonus Tip: It works even better if you are honest about your first gut reaction.
For Example: From the Barista example above…
Barista: I called your drink three times already! (with a stink eye glance)
You: Your mind goes wild with “how dare she” and “what’s her problem?!” thoughts. Then you remember these hacks and remove yourself and your thoughts from the picture and play the “What If?” game in your mind.
Now that you’re calm and coming from a non-blaming place you say, “I’m really sorry that I didn’t hear you. To be honest I just took what you said to me really defensively, but in the end it’s my fault that I didn’t hear you.”
Chances are at this point her attitude has shifted because you’re taking all the blame. She would have nothing to be upset about anymore.
You could leave it like this if you’d like, and go about your day. Or, if it still didn’t give you peace of mind, you could ask, “what was your intention with what you said? I don’t want to assume it was mean-spirited.”
Please note: if you have any sort of blaming or assumptive demeanor, this will not work. It must come from a place of pure curiosity and understanding. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but this is imperative.
At this point the barista has two options:
1) Stay with the current attitude; or
2) Change her attitude.
Whichever way she chooses to go has nothing to do with you. If she stays with a bad attitude, you can be assured that she’s not happy with something going on in her life (and that, again, has nothing to do with you – so there’s no reason to be defensive or threatened by it).
More than likely, however, she will confess that she’s having a bad day and apologize for snapping at you. You may even get a full story about why her day isn’t going well (which is a great opportunity to be a sounding board for someone).
Either way the moment goes, you will be left with the understanding that you have no reason to be angry with someone for something they say or do, and in no way should you allow it to affect the rest of your day. You’re the only one who can allow, or not allow, someone to affect your day.
Once you can master this process, you can transform your world and the world around you. You no longer have to be triggered and get upset. You no longer have to have judgments rule your decision-making, relationships and overall happiness. You can be free to be you, and to allow others to be them.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any examples of your own? Can you think of any more Perspective Hacks? Let us know in the comments below.