Ben Rheinheimer | October 16, 2020

This cartoon has been “floating” around the internet for a while, but I think it does a great job of capturing how perspective can really drive our hopes, expectations, and assumptions. Each of these individuals has a very unique perspective of the situation. Both were looking for a solution to their predicament and yet their perspective of the situation is probably going to change once things play out. A real sense of false hope.

However, there are also other perspectives that we can talk about. What about the perspective of the reader. Most people probably look at this cartoon and think something similar to, “Ha. They are both still in trouble and they don’t know it yet.” But another reader may look at it and say, “Yes! They found another person to help them problem solve the situation.” A difference of perspectives.

Or what about the perspective of context. This cartoon (or some version of it) is quite old and seems to be one take on hope and disappointment. But our current context is that of experiencing a pandemic where many people have felt isolated on personal islands or boats. With this context, we could reread this comic as a statement on “returning” to human interaction. This cartoon carries a sense of hope and joy for the opportunity to renew relationships. A difference of perspectives.

And what about the perspective of the cartoonist? How does that change the cartoon? Does it even matter? So many questions. So many possibilities. Just like perspectives. When we build relationships with others, it is important to recognize that there will be numerous perspectives. A lot of our work at ULEAD is aimed at helping people notice different perspectives, voice different perspectives, and utilize different perspectives to grow as a person or team. With that being said, here are three things I have come to notice about perspectives that I think are helpful to remember.

Your perspective may not be wrong but it may need to change

We usually see a situation or a challenge from one singular perspective. And while our perspective isn’t necessarily “wrong”, it is most likely not the full picture. For example, I once ran a block stacking activity with a group of young leaders. It is much more difficult than it sounds, but at one point they needed to decide what block to stack next. The one that the group as a whole wanted to choose was objected to by one of the other students. This student, who was gifted at math and science, believed the physics of it all made it impossible for that block to work. The group consented to trying something else. At the end of the activity, as the group processed their success and struggles, they lamented not trying the original block. The student who was now extremely frustrated with their doubts, grabbed the block, walked up to the stack and placed it on top. With a look of shock on his face, not only did the block not fall off, it actually created a better setup for the next block. Him having a math and science perspective was not “wrong”, however, he was unable to step out of his perspective and see the challenge any other way. Sometimes, listening to other’s perspective can give us a fuller image of what needs to be done.

What is one perspective that you currently have that might need to grow in new ways?

Move from wrong-spotting to difference-spotting

This leads us into how we deal with others who come with differing perspectives. In their book, Thanks for the Feedback, Stone and Heen talk about how we interact when there is a difference of opinion. When there is a difference of perspectives, we often dive into wrong-spotting, which means that we are constantly looking for the wrong in the other person’s perspective as a way to end arguments. The problem is that there are many types of “wrongs”. For example, you can have:

  • ‘2+2=5’ Wrong – which means that it is factually wrong. Maybe we completely misread the situation or we have the wrong person or we are using wrong data.
  • ‘It used to be right’ Wrong – which means that systems, organizations, and people change. So what used to be right may no longer be the situation.
  • ‘Timing’ Wrong – which means that something can be right but at the wrong time. For example, you may need to have a difficult work performance review, but having that conversation while you are at the hospital awaiting the arrival of your first child is probably wrong.

Instead of finding all the wrongs, shifting to a pattern of conversation that revolves around difference of perspectives will be more productive. How are our perspectives different? Why do we have these different perspectives? If we combine our different perspectives, can we create a fuller picture? These questions allow us to value each other as not being necessarily wrong, but rather, as having a different perspective of a similar situation.

What is one disagreement that you have with another person’s perspective that would benefit from shifting to noticing differences versus noticing “wrongs”?

Your attitude can flip your perspective

Finally, I would never be confused for an optimist, however, I have learned that taking a more positive approach to challenges increases the likelihood that you will be successful in overcoming them.

For example, almost without fail, when we run groups on our climbing walls, if the first person or two is successful, the rest of the group will be more successful on the wall as a whole. On the other hand, if the first couple people who try really struggle, the experience is usually a lot more difficult. If I see someone struggling, then my perspective is that the challenge is extremely hard if not impossible. But if I realize that others can do it, so can I, and I am more willing to not only take on challenges but push myself further than I originally considered.

Linguist and philosopher Noam Chosky said, “Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.” Our perspective of how we see people, challenges, life, is shaded by the attitude that we bring.

What is one attitude change that you can make today that may impact your perspective on a challenge you are facing?

Ben Rheinheimer, Self-Efficacy Curator at ULEAD