Perspective Smudging

Taking a New View

Is Your Perspective Smudged?

Executive Overview

Perspective-taking is a powerful ally in our quest to navigate relationships, better communication, and in seeking to build powerful partnerships and alliances.

  • Be willing to embrace new ideas and concepts.
  • Practice active communication. Face the person, listen for understanding, and repeat
    concepts in different words.
  • Adjust motives before conversations. Determine what you want out of the discussion before
  • Check your resistance factors and prepare to mitigate resistance with legitimate questions.
  • Consider your position in light of the information learned and be willing to adapt.

Grandpa’s Way

Grandpa had a way with words to teach essential life lessons. I remember him saying certain things that didn’t make sense until many years later. This is one of his favorite short-sayings. I was just a small boy at the time, but he must have said it a lot because it stuck in my mind.

“The first guy says to the second, “I bet you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”
Oh, sure, I do know it. My mom made me say it every night.”
I’ll bet you ten dollars; you don’t know it.
Ok, but I can win this.” The second guy begins to recite.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…
The first guy Interrupts, “Aww dang it! I guess you do know it. You win, here’s your ten spot.

For a long time, I thought he was telling some joke, but I didn’t get it until I began to read the Bible and found out that it wasn’t even close to being the Lord’s Prayer. My grandpa would verbalize the lesson this way, “If you don’t know something, keep your mouth shut.” Person #1 didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer. In betting that person #2 didn’t know it, person #1 made a fool out of himself. An old Chinese saying is,

“It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.”

As to whether what you say is wise or foolish, well, that’s a matter of perspective.

Your Perspective

Every person has a perspective, a lens through which we view ourselves, everyone, and everything around us. You may have heard the phrase, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Whatever we see, hear, feel, think, or know is colored by our perspective. It makes each person unique and is an influential contributor to our communications, community, and relationships. While being aware of perspectives can be a helpful tool, getting lost in the forest of one’s perspective can cause
lasting damage to relationships and lives. Richard J. Boland Jr. (Center for Effective Organizations) penned a study about Perspective-Taking and stated, “The process of perspective-taking may be the most crucial communication process to an organization’s success.” Psychology Today has defined the art of Perspective-Taking as “…the act of perceiving a situation or understanding a concept from an alternative point of view, such as that of another individual.” This is where the human mind begins to run into trouble. Most of us have spent the majority of our lives with the idea that our perspective is, most certainly, not only the best but also the logical truth. This is a problem when we encounter other individuals who do not hold the same perspective and may result in a conflict that remains hidden in our memory or could blast out in our communication. Have you seen this occur in person, on social media, on the news, etc.?

Perspective-taking can be a valuable tool to help us understand, if not incorporate, another person’s or organization’s view on any given issue. This is helpful and can be a critical differentiator in lowering conflict in any relationship. For instance, during corporate and union discussions, a mediator may be engaged to help both parties find common ground in their negotiations. Okay, enough of the background and introduction. How do we use Perspective-taking to keep us on the yellow brick road of success? Let’s start with some basic tenets of success.

Try Willingness!

It should go without saying that if we read or hear something and discard it, then there is not much sense in reading or hearing it. The first step is to be willing to challenge our own perspectives and points of view. That can be difficult because we have to accept that we are not perfect and our point of view may not be the best. No one likes to admit they may not be correct, much less blatantly wrong. However, in relationships, one of the keys to effective communication and growth is to embrace the other person’s point of view without compromising your own. This is an art and requires something referred to as Active Communication.

Do you engage in Active Communication?

Active Communication is the art of listening. Most people do not listen but instead, only hear. When I have been in a foreign country where most people do not speak English, I hear sounds but have no understanding. This also happens when people communicate in a commonly understood language. Have you ever been conversing when the other person suddenly asked, “Did you hear what I just said?” The inclination is to smile and nod, hoping no further explanation is required. What happened? The brain can process much faster than we speak and gets bored and takes a vacation. Other times, we may be thinking about our response to what is being said instead of listening to understand. Listening to understand requires effort and energy.

The key to active listening is listening to understand so you can rephrase what you heard into a meaningful statement for validation. “
What I hear you saying is __________, is that what you mean?

This completely reverses the conversation and outcome. Take the example of a husband watching his favorite sport on TV. One of his kids asks if they can go down the street to their friend’s house. Later, he has no memory of authorizing that activity. The brain is not only not good at multitasking but also cannot do it. Whatever we focus on, there we are. If you talk to me and my mind wanders to my vacation in France – I’m in France. Active communication helps ensure you are 100% present and understand the other person’s perspective. You are not bypassing your perspective but instead gaining new information to add to it. You can identify when the other person is not participating by asking questions. If you feel you are listening to a recording that keeps rewinding and replaying, you are playing a game by yourself, and you might want to excuse yourself from the table.

What are Your Motives?

Active communication helps understand another’s perspective but is only part of the equation. If your motivation is only to convince the other person they are wrong or that they need to do, act, or say something the way you want them to, then you will not form a good connection. It takes a courageous individual to go into a conversation with an open mind, willing to embrace another’s view and consider the impact on their own perspective.


Most of the time, when a new idea is presented, people will resist it. Even if it is the best idea in the universe, it’s not THEIR idea, and there is a default resistance in the brain. You may have encountered this in a business meeting or negotiation where nonsensical resistance occurs. Once this happens, it’s too late to do anything but damage control. But here is a way to head it off at the pass. If you can form your presentation into a series of questions, a well-formed question tends to bypass this
resistance behavior. However, the questions need to be legitimate in the hearer’s mind. Nonsensical questions generate nonsensical responses.

Principles of REAL Success

I will mention the framework of REAL Success, which involves the following. These key concepts are dealt with in my Master Classes:

  • Relationship
  • Equipping
  • Attitude
  • Leadership

Real Life

When dealing with relationships, personal relationships can be the most difficult. In business, we tend to overlook the weightier layers of personality and communication, whereas, with a close personal relationship, it is harder to ignore. What do you tend to do when your spouse, partner, or friend disagrees with something you say? Will
you argue incessantly to make a point, say nothing and let it go, or try to understand the other perspective? For relationships to grow, we are suggesting the use of perspective-taking concepts.

  1. Be willing to embrace new ideas and concepts.
  2. Practice active communication. Face the person, listen for understanding, and repeat concepts in different words.
  3. Adjust motives before conversations. Determine what you want out of the discussion before engaging.
  4. Check your resistance factors and prepare to mitigate resistance with legitimate questions.


Take the Next Step

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Authored by H Mark Taylor – An Independent Certified Coach, Teacher, Trainer, and Speaker with Maxwell Leadership Certified Team
Copyright © 2024 H Mark Taylor. All rights reserved.

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