Perspective-taking is a powerful tool through which we can relate to and build relationships with others. Have you ever been having a conversation with someone and you wish that they would be able to see the issue from your point of view? Learning to evaluate a problem from multiple perspectives can aid your understanding of the issue and the people around you. Stepping away from your perspective can show you the issues the many lie in your option for resolution and see why others may have a valid proposition. When you see another person’s point of view, you gain empathy for the other person.
However, perspective-taking abilities do not come naturally for many people, and the concept can feel overwhelming. This article will outline the meaning of perspective-taking and the various types that may occur during a problem-solving session. It will outline the benefits of learning perspective-taking skills before diving into a basic outline of how to begin to practice it more consciously. The goal of this article is to help you understand how perspective-taking can impact your conflict resolution practice and skills.
Defining Perspective Taking
Put simply, perspective-taking is the act of viewing a situation through another’s point of view. This means considering the thought process, interests, views, and emotions that go into their perspective, and it is social inferencing of another person’s ideas. By doing so, we can connect with the other person. and develop an understanding to better approach a situation or even that we may be faced with.
It is an integral part of our social perspective and social psychology, meaning that it plays a large role in how we perceive others and how they perceive us. If we are unable to set aside our perspective for someone else, we will likely not be perceived well by others.
The skill develops as we grow up, and it is a vital part of social-emotional learning as children. Many children ages 2 and older will begin to understand the emotions and start to become perspective-takers, even without knowing it. As we continue to grow, most people will understand how to set aside their point of view to consider someone else’s perspective; however, some people may have a more difficult time seeing different perspectives, especially with certain neurodivergent diagnoses.
Yet it is still possible for us to learn to consider other people’s feelings and give them the consideration they deserve. This helps us gain a better understanding of another person’s feelings.
Although it is a vital part of our developmental psychology, it is not always the first response when we encounter conflict. Our brains are hardwired to protect us and keep our needs at the center of the conversation. Because of this, we have to work for and train our brains to move past ourselves and our needs to consider the other person’s viewpoint.
Overcoming our brains is a skill that is not always a part of child development, so many parents will focus on how to teach children this skill. Young adults and older kids may benefit from learning about other perspectives and engaging with new ideas.
Types of Perspective-Taking
There are several different ways that we take in and observe another’s point of view. Each type deals with a various factor that will affect how one can process and decipher the thoughts of another.
Conceptual Perspective Taking or Cognitive Perspective Taking
The first type of perspective taking is conceptual perspective taking, also called cognitive perspective taking. This is where you investigate and take on the worldview, cultural implications, and plans that are likely affecting the way that a person is acting. You step into the thoughts and beliefs that the person has to understand better where they are coming from. The goal of this form is to access the thoughts of the other person influencing their decision, both before and during the conversation. When most people think of stepping into a new perspective, this is usually what they consider.
Perceptual Perspective Taking or Visual Perspective Taking
Another type of perspective-taking is perceptual or visual perspective-taking. This happens when you place yourself physically in the other person’s shoes and observe what they are taking in through their sense. You will notice what the person is seeing, such as whether something obstructs their line of sight to what you are speaking about, and what they hear, particularly if there is something else influencing what they can understand what you are saying. Especially when working with someone sensitive to the environment around them, it can be helpful to understand what other inputs may be impeding the conversation or harming the other person in some way.
Affective Perspective Taking or Social Perspective Taking
The final type of perspective-taking is affective perspective-taking or social perspective-taking. This is the ability to engage with and take on the emotions of others. This is commonly understood as empathy, or the ability to identify and understand another person’s emotion. This can be heavy to take on if there are strong emotions at the center of the conflict, but it can be a game-changer for conflict resolution if it is used to better understand what is driving a viewpoint or behavior.
However, this will often require a strong understanding of emotional regulation to ensure that when you take on another’s emotions, you can calm yourself down and separate yourself if necessary. It is also important to not engage with the emotion at the same level that the other person is but to hold it at arm’s length to gain an understanding of what the other person is experiencing.
The Benefits of Practicing Perspective-Taking
If you can bypass the hidden rules of our brains and get into the brain of another person, completing a brain hack of sorts, you can experience many benefits both in life and in conflict resolution. Perspective-taking gives you a chance to acknowledge individual differences and bring self-awareness into social interactions. Some of the major benefits are discussed below.
When we put ourselves in others’ perspectives, we can begin to understand the issues and the struggles that are affecting the way that they engage with social interaction and how they make their decisions. This helps us identify with and make sense of the emotions and reactions of someone else and allows us to see the pain or harm that may have caused them to act the way that they did. Increased empathy will also help us address biases and other issues that interfere with appropriate social cognition of a situation.
It also accesses brain regions that we use for other essential skills, such as imagination and memory, which can lead to a more positive response to the exercise and further empathy.
Works Toward Limiting Biases
When you begin to see the world through someone else’s shoes, you can begin to train your brain toward flexible thinking and away from biases. By taking another’s perspective, you can work to build mutual respect that helps you to continue paying attention to creative ideas and each unique perspective, regardless of how your conscious or unconscious biases sort them. Social psychology suggests that perspective-taking toward limiting biases in two ways.
First, it limits the automatic expressions of bias in our everyday lives. By considering what another person is thinking, feeling, or observing, we can notice and define the similarities that are underneath the groups that we sort people into, but also. the differences that give us each a unique perspective. This helps develop empathy and creates a bond that overcomes the need to act on or express biases.
By taking another’s perspective, we see how what we said or did was influenced by a racial bias or other form of basis. It causes us to retrain our actions to better interact with everyone we encounter.
Second, it limits development or reliance on implicit bias, which is a way of seeing another group as the “bad person” or an “other,” based solely on the way they look, talk, or where they are from, regardless of the ways we interact with them and their ability and is usually held unconsciously. Implicit biases will often be a part of social-emotional learning and influenced by caregivers and environments that we are a part of throughout child development.
When we take on the viewpoint of another person with characteristics that we have an implicit bias against, we are often forced to confront our view and change how we react or think.
Decreasing Stereotype Expression and Stereotype Accessibility
Similar to a bias, a stereotype is a way of sorting people based on characteristics and expecting them to act a certain way based only on those characteristics. Unlike bias, it is usually less of a negative reaction to a person and more of an expectation of their preferences or actions. It is a way of predicting how social situations may play out, even if you do not know someone personally.
Perspective-taking allows you to limit and decrease the ability to access and rely on a stereotype because you will be confronted with a very real person in front of you. Additionally, it will also help you to rely on and act out of stereotypes, for example, assigning tasks based on what you believe someone may be good at just because of their race. When you shift perspective, it allows you to expand your understanding of another person and train yourself to reject perspectives that encourage stereotypes, even if is it your perspective.
Avoids In-Group Favoritism
Another common issue within a team working toward conflict resolution is in-group favoritism, which is the tendency of one to favor people within the group that they have defined. However, when we practice perspective-taking skills, we can avoid choosing one person over another based solely on a group and can choose someone based on the perspective that they bring to the table.
Another major benefit to perspective-taking is the expansion of creative ideas and creativity within a team. When we stop to consider the solution or the idea that someone else has presented, we can appreciate the value that it adds to the situation rather than pushing for our solution or idea to be chosen. The more members that commit to perspective-taking, the more power the team holds for more well-rounded and considered ideas.
How to Practice Perspective-Taking
Now that we have a well-rounded understanding of what perspective-taking is and the benefits that make it an essential skill, we can dive into how to practice it, drawing from years of applied psychology research on the topic and input from developmental psychology as well. For a deeper look at the benefits and science behind perspective-taking, I recommend diving into the theory of mind, brain regions and activation, and the neural basis of perspective-taking.
The best way to begin to practice perspective-taking is to learn about it, which we have done. You can also lean further into the topic by taking perspective-taking training to better understand the skills. Many of these courses will teach you perspective-taking activities to implement in your life. For professionals working with children, a specific course can teach engaging activities to help train children in beneficial prosocial behavior.
Important Perspective-Taking Skills
While each person has likely developed their procedure for perspective-taking and problem-solving, the ability can be further honed by focusing on some of the skills that make up the process of shifting your perspective in social situations. This process is a basic outline of the considerations and skills that you can implement to further your ability to take on a new perspective, but it can be expanded to develop a fuller understanding of the topic.
You will need to begin with observation because this is the only way that you can find the motivating factors of another person’s point of view. You should look at their physical space if possible and note any unique stimuli. You should consider the background of the person if you know them well or pay attention to the words that they use when they are speaking. The more you can take in, the better you can get into the mindset of the other person.
Next, you will need to begin to imagine how the things you have observed interact with the physical space and how this is making the person feel. Imagine that you are standing in their place and encountering the stimuli around them. Imagine that you have the worldview that they have and how you would approach the topic. You are not looking to critique or judge the other person, but you are looking to understand what is driving them.
Next, you will need to begin to consider how the factors driving the person and their solution or idea address the situation at hand. Here, you critique their position with more empathy and compassion than you would have had if you had dove right in because you understand where it is coming from. This does not mean that you need to agree with it, but it gives you more background.
After you have considered the option from the other perspective, you can begin to share your consideration of the option with the other person. If you agree with the position, share what made you feel that way. If you disagree or would like to tweak the solution, share that you understand why they put forward that solution and the reasons you have to consider as well. Doing so will ensure kind responses, and you can adjust your positions continuously from this point of view.
Perspective-taking is an essential skill that most of us learn in childhood but continues to develop throughout our lives. It helps us to acknowledge and validate the feelings of others while also ensuring that we do not lose ourselves. Learning more about perspective-taking and the benefits it brings helps us to better implement our skills and work toward conflict resolution together.
To learn more about perspective-taking, and other social and emotional skills, contact ADR Times today!