Do you want to be more persuasive?
Understand what is behind the other person’s different perspective, and you may change their mind (or your own).
Whether you want to make your child eat vegetables or convince the client to sign off on a big purchase, it is important to understand what motivates their actions.
Understanding the motivation behind the decisions of others will give you tools to sway them in your direction. Understanding the different perspective of your opponent will also save you a lot of frustration and even anger.
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There’s a simple tool: look at things from different perspectives.
Two kittens and a ball
A great example of different viewpoints is an actual view of an object from a different perspective. When I was a kid, I had a book with a story about two porcelain cats sitting on a shelf. There was a rubber ball between them. The ball was half red and half blue. Each of the kittens could see only one side of the ball.
They argued all day long about the color of the ball. One said it was red and the other that the ball was blue.
They got so angry that the shelf started to shake. Both porcelain kittens fell off the shelf and shattered on the floor below.
Objectively they were both wrong and didn’t see reality as it was. Both kittens were right in their bubble. They just didn’t see the whole picture and in the end, it destroyed them.
Why is it important to look at things from a different perspective? Two ideas you can take from this:
If the other person is strongly in favor of a point you can’t see, maybe there’s a reason for it. You don’t have to prove your point. You have to understand their view to bridge the gap.
Be an observer outside of yourself
Detaching yourself from your own view will give you the perspective you do not have when clinging to your own position, trying to protect it and convince the other side.
Step out of the situation and see the issue as a neutral bystander.
If you can see the motivation behind the arguments on the other side, you will be better equipped to offer solutions that satisfy their needs. You do not have to agree with their point of view, you may think their position is wrong or stupid or both, but before you understand, you cannot work out the solution.
A study found that perspective taking increased individuals’ ability to discover hidden agreements and to both create and claim resources at the bargaining table. ~ Why It Pays to Get Inside the Head of Your Opponent
Feynman: Take the world from another point of view
Seek to understand different perspectives
Judging others wrong or stupid means you don’t understand how their reasoning works. Their different perspective usually arises from the set of facts through some kind of reasoning. Understanding that reasoning may help you point out that the facts are wrong or incomplete, and the reasoning may be flawed.
Of course, there’s the flip-side, that your facts may be off and your reasoning faulty. Considering the other side may reveal that to you.
Remember that right and wrong feel the same in the person’s head.
That’s why it is important to look at things from a different perspective. It may be scary to consider the other position.
Maybe they are right?
But let’s take Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or any other historical person with whom you disagree.
They are definitely not right!
But understanding what made them that way would help to avoid similar situations ever occurring again.
A great idea that I got from Scott Adams’ book Loserthink was that you should switch between TV news channels to get the view from both sides. Create a rule where you switch from one news outlet to the opposing one when the ads come on.
You should not watch TV or any news. But when you do, then make sure you follow different perspectives more or less equally.
Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion.
When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action. ~ Daniel Goleman
Reflect on your conversation partner
Mirroring is a simple way to understand your opponent better.
In the most basic form, you just repeat the gist of what the other person said back to them. Use the same sentence or phrase. Mirroring will help you clarify if you understand what the other person said.
For example, when they say, “Trump is the best president we have had,” then you can mirror “So, you mean that everything that Trump does is right?”
Most people do not hold absolute views, and your opponent may say something where you can find common ground.
I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do. ~ Charlie Munger
But there’s an even better way of reflecting your conversation partner. If the situation allows it, set some ground rules. The main rule is that when one side says something, then the other side has to repeat it back to them. Repeat it until the partner agrees that this is what they meant. Then you can answer with your own argument.
When you make an effort to understand and reflect, you have to truly listen to your partner. This act alone will make you closer to the person you are talking with.
Different perspective may be right
You have to be ready to accept that people don’t want their point of view changed. Research shows we are incredibly skilled at ignoring the facts that contradict our position. It’s called the confirmation bias:
Confirmation bias, also called myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. – Wikipedia
You may be surprised, but no law says people have to share your opinion.
Get a grip and try to understand why people act the way they do. Instead of becoming frustrated, irritated, or angry, become a collector of different perspectives. You will expand your mental horizon, be more emphatic and less stressed / hurt / disappointed.
Our opinions change more than we think is possible. I am happy that I’m not the person I was 20 years ago. Some of my views are now stronger and more articulated. Others do not exist anymore. For example, in my 20s, I thought the drinking from Friday night to Sunday noon was a great way to spend my time. Luckily, I don’t believe that anymore.
A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open. ― Frank Zappa
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (10th Anniversary Edition). Everyone knows that high IQ is no guarantee of success, happiness, or virtue, but until Emotional Intelligence, we could only guess why. Daniel Goleman’s brilliant report from the frontiers of psychology and neuroscience offers startling new insight into our “two minds”—the rational and the emotional—and how they together shape our destiny.
Through vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and even our physical well-being. What emerges is an entirely new way to talk about being smart.
The best news is that “emotional literacy” is not fixed early in life. Every parent, every teacher, every business leader, and everyone interested in a more civil society, has a stake in this compelling vision of human possibility.
Now go ahead, try to understand the point of view of a child not wanting to eat vegetables. Or maybe find out why your friend has a different perspective on skydiving. You don’t have to change their views, sometimes you can just let it go.
Image: Frogs 2 by Andrzej Pobiedziński
Image: Daniel Goleman – Pop!Tech 2009 – Camden, ME by PopTech