Keys to an Effective Relationship – Part III

imagesIs this dress blue and black or white and gold?

Scottish musician Caitlin McNeill posted a picture on her micro-blogging website with a caption – “Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking out!”

The post went viral after BuzzFeed picked it up – it sparked a heated global debate. We all got exposed to this craziness in our national news. Really?!? Wow!

This is a great example of how our perspectives can skew our thinking and ability to be open minded. As I read numerous articles about the incident, I noted all discussions were focused around an individual’s thoughts regarding how they felt – not around a dialogue on why someone else thought the dress looked a different color.

images-3We’ve all developed a lens in which we view life. We interpret what others are saying or doing through our own set of past experiences, our culture, values, and beliefs about others, ourselves, and our world. Our minds are constantly making sense of our own world – forming opinions and judgments during every interaction.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

Picture yourself standing high on a mountaintop or flying in a plane. From this vantage point we can see things from a wider and less detailed perspective. It can be a varied and interesting perspective to help us understand more of the big picture. The same happens when we use Google Earth. We can zoom from our home’s street view to the view of our city, state, and country with just the click of a mouse. So how can we take the vantage point of being high on a mountain or using Google Earth to help understand another person’s perspective?

images-2We need to first seek to understand then to be understood; it’s Dr. Stephen Covey’s Habit 5. Do you remember this picture in his book?  It was an exercise to uncover if we see both the young beautiful lady as well as the old lady with a large nose and chin.

To understand another’s perspective, we need to understand why a person is thinking and behaving the way they are. What’s the best way to do this? Practice Channel 2 listening and asking questions. This gains clarity so we may obtain the vantage point of the other person’s perspective; to enter into their paradigm.


To be clear, we aren’t looking to release our own perspective and understanding, this practice is to enhance our own perspective by adding another’s viewpoint. When we can understand the thoughts and actions of another and we can feel their motives within us we can start to understand their perspective. Feeling their motives doesn’t mean we agree with them but we now have greater clarity on their perspective.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

Here’s a way in which we can help ourselves learn to understand other’s perspective.

Practice the STOPP method:

S = Stop and step back

T = Take a breath – feel yourself take a deep slow breath

O = Observe – What am I thinking? Feeling? Is this fact or opinion? Is it accurate? Helpful?

P = Pull back and put in perspective – Is there another way of looking at this? What would someone else see here? What is the Google Earth view? What meaning am I giving this interaction to incite this reaction? How important is this right now? In the future?

P = Practice what works – Lean on your values and beliefs. What is proportional with this interaction? What could the consequences of my communication and actions be? What is best for me? What is best for the relationship?

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

Sometimes we need to remember put ourselves in another person’s shoes; remember that their background and experiences, which are different then ours, affect their perspectives.  We can also follow the modified golden rule – treat others the way they want to be treated.

Taking another’s perspective means trying to see things from their point of view. When we are willing and able to see things from another’s perspective, we can learn things we didn’t know before. These practices show a deep admiration and respect and they help to deepen the relationship.

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