Can’t figure something out? Try looking at it from a new perspective.

May 10, 2017

From a recent post at  Jack’s Winning Words blog – “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must continually look at things in a different way.”  (Tom Schulman)  A professor surprised his class by hopping up on a desk to give his lecture.  The students remembered what he said, because they saw him differently.

We all look at life and the situations that we confront from our own perspective. We seldom take the time to hop up upon a desk to “see” things from another perspective. That is particularly true of our encounters and interactions with other people. If we are honest with ourselves, the perspective lens that we look at others through is called judgement. We judge others from our own frame of reference, rather than just see and girl with nose chainaccept them for who they are without prejudice. As a test, imagine that two girls walk into a room where you are. One looks “normal” and the other is sporting a nose ring and purple lips. What is your immediate reaction to them? Did you jump to a conclusion (a judgement) right away about the girl with the nose ring? I wonder what she thought about me if she saw an old dude standing there gawking at her.

We seldom stop to think about or take the time to attempt to see things from another perspective, especially the perspective of someone else. Rather we judge them from our own perspective and cannot fathom why they have made the choices that they have made. It may be the choice of their appearance or it may be the choice of an action that they have taken. On the surface an action may just appear to be a criminal act that needs to be punished; however, below that surface may be a set of circumstances that depression4precipitated the poor decision that led to that act. Was it caused by desperate hunger or maybe even overwhelming fear? Was it caused by the need to feed and addiction and what was the root cause of that addition? Is the behavior driven by a condition or illness that we just don’t understand? After all, how does one put oneself into the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum and see things as they see them?

You can read about things, like the post that I had here some time back that referenced a blog by a person on the autism spectrum who tried to describe her perspective on the world – how it feels to be autistic. That was a post about “trying to understand others without a frame of reference”. There was a later one about how it feels to be depressed. In both cases there was someone who lives those perspectives trying to share their point of view with others, so that they might be better understood themselves. There was a recent article in the Detroit Free Press about a recent MSU grad who overcame bi-polar disorder to pursue his dreams. I read it, but I still can’t get to the perspective that he must have had battling with that disorder.

I have also posted here many times about valuing diversity and about accepting people who embrace different lifestyles, like the GLBTQI community, yet I am still susceptible tolbgtqi-symbol making those snap judgments that many do, just based upon appearance or mannerisms. It takes a discipline that I have yet to master to prevent that from happening and to be able to think and accept, before rushing to judgement. I’m still working on that.

The recent seismic political changes in Washington are forcing many of us to try to gain some perspective on the point-of-view of the conservatives who now rule the land. There are lots of terms used to describe what they are apparently trying to accomplish – smaller government, less intrusion in our personal lives by government, reduced taxes, reduced regulation of day-to-day life, the sanctity of life, and on and on. On the surface, many of these ideas or ideologies don’t sound bad. The devil is in the details of how they are being implemented. There is a supreme irony in saying that you are providing better health care for everyone while at the same time causing millions of people to lose what little health care that they had. I still can’t get my head around that perspective. At the arrogantsame time, I read week after week about doctors and other health care “professionals” being prosecuted for fraud that saps millions from the healthcare system and about drug costs that have gone through the roof due to a broken healthcare payments system.

It is hard in the face of all that is happening not to become cynical about government and about a life that seems to be stacked against the average person. That is where one’s faith can provide the perspective that is needed to cope with the situation at hand. I posted recently about trusting God’s will and plan for our lives. Perhaps we need to extend that trust to life in general and our currently political situation specifically. Rather than praying that God find a way to “throw the bums out”; perhaps we should pray that God open their eye to the needs of all and guide them in their political actions. I’ll save the “throw the bums out” prayer if that doesn’t work.

Trying to see things from a different perspective or from someone else’s point-of-view at least forces us to try to imagine something different – a different way of looking at things and a different set of values for making decisions. That can be especially hard when both of the parties claim to be basing their value systems on the same thing. Both the conservative and the liberal sides of the political spectrum claim to be basing their core values on a belief in God and their own interpretation of the guidance to be found in thereading-bible Bible and the teachings of Jesus; yet they arrive at dramatically different perspectives on life and in the decisions that they make. It seems to me that at its core the two points of view can be expressed as “leave me alone” and “let me help you”. At the one extreme is anarchy and at the other socialism. Of course, neither will ever be achieved, but those end goals seem to drive the participants’ behavior.

I suppose that a Utopian view might be that everyone is cared for and all needs met without anyone having to pay for anything and everyone being free to do whatever they want. Not even God has figured out how to do that yet, unless you include heaven in the equation. Until such time as we get to heaven, the best that we might be able to do is to visualizingtry to stop and think before we react. Some and try to see, and perhaps understand a little, that the other person has a different perspective on the situation than we do. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different from our view of things and we need to acknowledge that difference and factor that different point-of-view into our reaction to things. You may never be able to figure it out, but you can factor it in. That is a step in the right direction and may even give you a different perspective on things.

Here’s looking at you (from a different perspective).


Add diversity and add perspective to your life…

April 4, 2017

I recently saw an ad for a diversity training course that is being offered by one of the local real estate associations. If one takes the course they will receive a designation that they supposedly can use in their real estate advertising that somehow is supposed to increase their business by certifying them as being diversity aware and sensitive. It just looked to me like someone has thought up a new way to make a buck selling a training course.

In my prior life in the corporate world, I attended several diversity training courses over the span of my career. The early ones focused almost entirely on racial diversity but eventually they evolved into ethnic and gender diversity and more recently into sexualembrace diversity orientation/preference diversity. One thing that all of these courses had in common is the us vs. them mentality with which they approach the topic. It is always taught from the perspective that we (the us in the equation) don’t understand and appreciate the other group’s life experiences and thus don’t understand their lifestyle or their perspective on life. There is certainly truth in that statement, but I always wondered why it had to start from us vs. them and not to find a way to start with just “us” as a whole, as humans, and go from there.

Of course, the other starting point perspective was the “we” are the white majority and predjuices“they” are in whatever minority that the course is focused upon.  Current demographic trends will soon make that statement false. Most of these courses try to teach the attendees how to “value differences”, which is to say how to accept and embrace those differences as good things and not just odd things. Companies that have truly embraced diversity have prospered and people who individually embrace diversity will do better, too. Why? Because their lives will be richer because of understanding, experiencing and assimilating those differences into their own lives. Understanding and embracing differences also serves to remove the unwarranted fears that the unknown always brings with it.

The latest group to demand and deserve to be the subject of of diversity acceptance is the GLBTQI community. This group has also faced rejection by the so-called “moral lbgtqi-symbolmajority”. Imagine the moral outrage that would be caused in that group by encountering a black, transgender person from the middle east living as a woman. One wouldn’t know where to start discriminating against that person. It might send the moral majority into apoplexy in North Carolina, if they asked to go to the bathroom.

I think one of the things that pulls us towards understanding diversity is our innate curiosity to understand people and what makes them tick. That’s one reason that I wrote the post Trying to understand others without a frame of reference.  That article referenced a very interesting blog post by Lori Sealy, a young lady who lives on the Autism spectrum. Lori related some of her day-to-day experiences and how she sees and feels things differently than most people (the “us” in that case) do. People with needs that are different from the normal needs of the vast majority of the people also bring a different (nee diverse) perspective that deserves attention and understanding.  So now our worst case example might be an autistic black transgender person from the middle east living as a woman. It boggles the mind of a bigot.

There is great potential value in diversity since it brings with it ideas and perspectives that you will never have on your own, based solely on your limited life experiences. You may not like or agree with all of those ideas and perspective, but at least you will now know that they exist and that there are people who do like and embrace them. You may also find yourself challenged to be able to respond the question “why don’t you try it” when asked about a food or a clothing style or a type of music or whatever else comes along with the diverse background and culture of the person that you have met.

timidDon’t panic. They aren’t likely to ask you to do something illegal or totally out of character for you; but, they may challenge you to stretch your comfort zone a bit, so that you can share an experience from their perspective or their culture. Go for it on the things that you can and be polite when declining the ones that you just can’t bring yourself to try. My wife and I never could quite convince ourselves to try the wonderful fish heads that a Jamaican friend of mine years ago wanted us to try.  Sometimes I wish I had at least tried it.

The bottom line is that no one is asking you to become something that you’re not, just to try harder to understand the perspective, the feelings and the needs of something that you’re not. You might just find value from that effort and perhaps even add a few new things to your experiences and knowledge base. You will almost certainly have become a better person for having overcome the knee-jerk reaction (emphasis on the “jerk” part) to discriminate against that person. You may eventually get to the point where your viewfacing new day of diversity starts with the perspective that we are all humans just trying to make it through life the best way that we can. While some travel paths that are more difficult than others, we all end up at the end of the line in the same place.

Have a great and diverse day.