I had a very difficult discussion with someone who abused (emotionally and physically) his wife and tried very hard to look at the discussion from the three perspectives. I obviously started from my position, since it was the easiest one. I observed my physical reaction to the discussion as it progressed. I observed my bodily reactions, the feelings I experienced as the other person tried to justify what he did. I was aware that I was both angry and disgusted. My answers were rapid and harsh.
Then I got in the shoes of the person in front of me and tried to understand his position. I had to fight with myself to overcome the initial emotions of anger. I soon realised that the person in front of me was also extremely angry. Only he was not trying to control it. He was convinced that he was right and he was eager for others to see his point of view. I became more relaxed and he found it easier to become more reasonable.
The third position was the neutral one. I kind of ‘removed’ myself to see both of us from above. Both intransigent and both eager to persuade each other about our viewpoints. I felt that the whole discussion was ridiculous to start with. In the end, I did understand that there were inherent problems in the relationship that needed to be resolved. I also understood that the man in front of me was suffering, too. I could not forgive or excuse him but I could see that he was not necessarily a bad person.
I have a colleague, Gina. I connect with most people, but have always found her difficult to get to know and build trust with. Recently, she got very cross about a meeting being cancelled.
1st perceptual position (me)
Why on earth is Gina getting cross with me about this meeting being cancelled? I just provide the content expertise, whereas she is supposed to be managing the project. It’s down to her to organise these meetings, not me.
Actually, this is quite funny. She’s getting really wound up, raising her voice, going bright red and not making eye contact with me.
I can’t believe that she’s actually going to take this small issue to our Director. He doesn’t like conflict, so he won’t side with her over me.
Wow! She just slammed the door. How pathetic! (Chuckles).
2nd perceptual position (Gina)
These people are so disorganised. I’m the project manager so it’s down to me to make a decision about whether the meeting goes ahead or not.
Carolyn’s not being very sympathetic. I thought she was supposed to be really nice. She’s always pretending to be everyone else’s friend. But I don’t think she likes me.
I’m getting nowhere here. All she is doing is undermining my role. I don’t know why I was brought it to do this role. I get no support from her or the Director or the rest of the project board. Grrrr.
Right that’s it, she’s laughing at me now. I’m going to speak to the Director about this. That’s teach her – I’ll go to someone really senior. (Goes out and shuts door).
3rd perception position (meta / neutral)
What’s really going on here? Two senior managers can’t see eye to eye about this. The cancelling of the meeting is important to one and not to the other. The person who cares about it is trying to get the other person to agree with them and to be sympathetic to the situation. I wonder why the other person doesn’t want to go ahead with the meeting. What is behind her laughing at her colleague?
Perhaps they should talk about what’s important to them, and what the meeting means to them.
I wonder who has cancelled the meeting and why.
I had a tricky conversation with my partner, a break down in conversation about holiday preparations (the day before).Me = I felt that his comments were not fair, other the top and not representing my reality. I was trying hard but did not seem to be good enough. I knew that there were things he would want to do himself, like packing the car and prepared everything and left it in the dining room. I was angry and sad at the same time. I found it hard to express/communicate my feeling in the “heat” of the momentHe = I felt that she was just not appreciating how much I had on my plate and did not do think of doing things to help even though she had plenty of time. It felt like she did not realise how much we still had to do. It was chaos in the dining room everything was lying there some of it not packed as well as it should be, looked careless. I felt angry and drained. I got angry and shouted things in the heat of the moment.Observer = She did as much as she could to support him but new that certain things he liked to do by himself. She has different standard of packing and is not as aware of how the quality of packing make it safer in the car. She did not communicate about holiday preparation and assume that his perception was that she did as much as was needed for the trip taking into account his need to pack the car himself and she would help with it when needed. She was aware that he had a lot on.He was stressed at work and found it difficult to cope with everything at this particular moment. His sleep was affected by it hence the short temper. He liked things done properly and found it hard not to be in “control”. He saw the chaos in the living room as a lack of consideration/appreciation for all the hard work he was doing.This breakdown mainly occurred because of a lack of communication beforehand and 2 very different perspectives.
Sofia is my best friend she lives a few hours away from me in her old hometown where she isn’t happy at all. She went through a divorce and her family told her to come home, that was the only way they could help her. She went home, she told me she wants to move again but this time she wants to move to a different town, which is a 15 hour drive from here and is completely different. I am sad that she’s leaving and feel that she should hang on a while longer before making the decision in haste. I then asked her to tell me why she wants to leave and how it would change her life if she did. She explained to me, it’s difficult to live with her mom again because she cannot be herself (she’s a psychic living with her very Christian Reborn mom). She told me that she cannot be herself at all and have to pretend to be religious because her family is very religious and deems her abilities to be from the devil. She told me she feels like she’s a caged animal and that she cannot do anything or be herself, she has been shoved back into a box again but this time the box feels smaller.
I am saddened by losing my friend, and for a moment thought only of myself and I got angry that she would abandon me that way. But I took a deep breath then I told her, I would speak to her again real soon and that I needed to think about this. I then went and contemplated the conversation we had, and put myself in her shoes, and I felt the box she told me about, I felt like a caged animal and I could feel it physically it made me want to kill myself instead of living like that. I then put myself in her family’s footsteps, this is a small town with small thinking, of course they fear what they do not understand and they are very religious and believe what the Bible tells them. They obviously trust the book, and fear for their souls. I could feel the fear, they would rather fear God than try to test Him, it also stems from being insecure, and God gives them promises of security and love, they feel safe and obviously the high of a God affects their physiology (you and I know it’s hypnosis) but they don’t. They feel so safe where they are now. I completely understood the emotional releases they experienced when they forgave, I completely understood how it affected their physiology, and they wouldn’t dare try and test it.
Then I took a step back and removed myself from the situation. Since she’s my best friend and I really do NOT want her to live so far, I looked at this, two opposing ends battling she wants freedom they want to put her into a box, in the end if moving all the way to the other side of the country will help her gain her self confidence and her self esteem and freedom then I will support her. I will love her and never lose her; nothing will change except for her feeling happier. I want her to be happy; she means the world to me.
This is such a valuable technique in understanding other people’s point of view, and of course in conflict resolution and getting to common ground. I feel this will help sales people and couple communicate better, it will help take whatever relationship to the next level and bring on more intimacy, because what is more intimate than being in the other persons head? Truly understanding each other? This is powerful to me, I will better understand my own family. It’s wonderful to connect to someone like that, it’s like telepathy actually…being so aware of what they feel and experience that it affects you. It’s incredible to experience this type of energy.