I’ve had a lot of conversations this past week that have really given me reason to step back and try to appreciate other perspectives. As part of the mindfulness work I’ve been doing I’ve learned more about the importance of being able to step back and give myself perspective about my own thoughts. This combination of considering my own thoughts from a different perspective as well as trying to approach conversations with other people the same way has really begun to spin things for me.
It often times gets very difficult to stop and consider other people’s perspectives when you are in the midst of a (heated?) conversation. I mean, really, when you’re right why consider other perspectives?!? Well, the thing is, a lot of times when we think we’re right (and we are) so is the other person! It’s true, it’s possible, people can disagree but both be right!! It’s all about perspective…
Last week I had a conversation with a student, I approached it from a closed perspective but luckily caught myself mid-way through. See, I was right, had to be. He was disrespectful to a bus monitor, arriving to the bus late and then screaming foul language at her. Not okay, anywhere, anytime. BUT, he was ‘right’ too…only I wasn’t allowing myself to see this because his behavior was so intolerable that it needed to be addressed, now! He wasn’t too keen to agree with me, in fact he felt like there was a great injustice being enacted upon him. This is when it hit me…perspective. I stopped talking, I listened and asked questions to begin to understand his perspective. He had felt wronged and unfairly treated, so to him, he was the one who was right. At the end of the conversation we realized, together, that his understanding of the situation had actually been skewed and he acknowledged that his behavior was unacceptable, even in the event that he had been right he agreed that his behavior was wrong. Perspective allowed this conversation to resolve successfully. I realized I needed to see his and he came around to seeing mine after I gave him the courtesy of understanding his perspective.
This happens all the time at school, especially in interactions between students and teachers/administrators. We’re the adults and therefore, obviously, can see everything clearly. In fact we often operate without all the information and still believe that we have to be right…which, sorry to say, might not be fair. Now, I will concede that it is often the case as I shared above; many times the students have a skewed or distorted version of reality. When this happens, even if we are seeing things clearly, we still need to stop to understand their perspective. If we don’t, then even if they tuck their tail between their legs and ‘agree’, they will still hold animosity because they feel wronged. However, by taking the time to understand their perspective and giving it the respect they feel it deserves we can better resolve any situation without (or at least with less) lingering animosity.
The lesson I’ve learned through my mindfulness work is, during meditation, to allow our mind to have thoughts but instead of chasing them to sit back and acknowledge them without any judgement. By doing this you take a perspective on your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that you previously may not have had. I’ve realized that this is how we must approach more of our conversations, especially the difficult conversations, with a non-judgmental perspective. By doing this we will begin to see how other perspectives might actually make sense, even if we don’t particularly agree. Rising to this level of understanding can lead to calmer, less stressful conversations, interactions, and lives.
So, give it a shot. Try to release judgment from yours and other people’s perspectives, step back and watch the cars go by instead of chasing traffic! I bet you’ll appreciate the results!!