“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Continuing with Integrating Perspectives, An Act of Peace, now I want to deepen in how we can take this into our daily life, and the impact it can have in our teamwork and in our organizations.
Piaget made an experiment for his theory of cognitive development, which lays clear foundations for us to understand perspective taking as a complex cognitive process. The experiment consisted in showing kids a cube with a different color for each side. Lets imagine that the color in front of the kids was white and the one in front of the researcher was red. Then he shifted the cube in such a way that the kids saw red and the researcher saw white. He would ask what color they saw and all of them said red; he also asked the kids what color he was looking at. Piaget discovered that kids younger than 6 years of age answered “red”. While kids older than 6 years of age answered “white” confirming the color the researcher was looking at. The process of taking the perspective of others is a complex ability that is only developed after 6 or 7 years of age. Before this, kids normally report only what they see. How many of those kids inside your organization do you know that are 30, 40, 50 and 60 years old?
Even though as kids we learn to have a complex cognitive process, we leave aside taking the perspective of others because it would mean to stop defending our own. And when I stop defending my perspective I then have a sense of weakness. What’s most important is that people understand me, because it reinforces my identity. Therefore, I put all my energy into others understanding how I see things.
How could you practice taking others’ perspective in your everyday life? As we have suggested in our work throughout our collaborations, the fundamental principle is that it’s not necessary for others to change. The natural impulse of wanting others to change, takes away our strength. The only person that can change is yourself. Going back into the topic of perspectives, the only person that can integrate the perspective of others is you. It is not important if the other person includes your perspective or not. It’s much more important for you to start developing the skill of taking others’ perspective.
For example, you give a presentation at work and when you finish, your boss gives you his perspective as if he hadn’t heard what you said. Your sensation is that what you said did not come through. Your impulse could be to try to explain and convince him of what you see. However, we suggest that if you change your perspective, it will have an effect in others. So, in this case, imagine that instead of trying to convince your boss, you try to comprehend what was that he understood from what you said; and let him know that you have interest in understanding what he is seeing that you’re not. This, without a doubt, will help you become more capable of doing a better presentation and, ultimately, to be a more conscious person.
We invite you to consider that perspective taking can have a positive impact in others, and better yet, it will allow you to see things you hadn’t seen before. This developmental process, which implies complex cognition, is only present in 3% of the world’s CEO’s according to Harvard Business Review!