How Does Perspective Change Our View

How perspective changes everythingThe second highest grossing movie of 2003 was an impressive tale.  Let’s see if any reader remembers it.  The story begins as a large family moves into their picturesque new home. In a cruel twist of fate, that very evening, a serial killer murders several family members, leaving only the grieving father and his now injured son alive.  Years later, the disabled son is kidnapped, and the father must journey thousands of kilometers to try and find him with only the help of a mentally disabled homeless woman.
For those of you haven’t seen this movie or are don’t watch movies like the one described above, I would highly recommend seeing this Disney tale of a clownfish and his friend Dory, Finding Nemo.  Some readers may object to the description above, after all, it was a harmless Pixar flick beloved by children around the world. That does not change that what I described above is quite accurate, from a certain point of view.
It’s all a simple matter of perspective.
When someone else’s perspective does not align with your own, you are in conflict. Now, when that differing perspective challenges a belief or a value you hold dear, well, that conflict can spiral out of control into a dispute with varying consequences.  I delineate between a conflict and a dispute for the context of interpersonal relationships. As I see it, a conflict can arise from innocuous events – Traffic on the way to work, for example.  A dispute is the road rage incident that follows.
Perspective is at the cornerstone of most of our interpersonal conflicts. Whether it be at the office, with friends or at home, differing perspectives are typically at the root of most disputes.  By understanding, or at least trying to understand the other persons viewpoint, you begin the process at the heart of healthy communication.
Our quick, emotional, and often visceral reactions to a challenge in perspective are very real, until we answer this very important question – What was their intent?
Our fight or flight instincts often direct our outcomes to physically defend our bodies from any danger.  The issue at hand is that our brain makes no distinction between very real physical threats, and argumentative emotional ones. This effect is why we yell, swear and may even resort to physicality when someone questions our politics, identity or religion, or any other subject matter where we attach our beliefs or values.
Therefore, the question I have is a straightforward one – what if we chose to respond rather than react?  When we react, we let our emotions govern our words and actions.  When we logically respond, we think objectively, forcing ourselves to momentarily detach from our emotions and intellectualize how we can appropriately verbalize what we see, think or feel.
How realistic would it be then to ask that in the heat of the moment, we would have the wherewithal to recognize we have been triggered, assess the intent of the seeming protagonist, and then, through skilled communication, ascertain their perspective.  The ability to accomplish this task can seem daunting, if it were not for the nagging submission that it is the only route to fostering stronger, healthier relationships.
“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. If I am to change this image, I must first change myself. Fish are friends, not food.”
–    Bruce the Shark, 2003.