A Matter of Perspective

Sometimes, a situation needs to be viewed from another perspective. Often, though, it’s only someone who isn’t in that situation who can see the other side of the coin.

As people, we have a tendency to believe ourselves to be correct. A common complaint of teenagers, for example, is that others don’t understand them. Years later, however, it will often be acknowledged that their parents and teachers did, in fact, understand them quite well.

As adults, though, we are not immune to this. There are countless examples where people have stood firm to their opinions regardless of the myriad of arguments presented to demonstrate the flaw in their thinking. One of the sites in my RSS Reader, The Daily WTF, is built on such examples. Readers of the Dilbert cartoon will also be able to relate to this concept.

Perhaps, then, the real issue is not so much an ability to see other perspectives, but a true desire to. How many of us can honestly state that we welcome all debates, and would fully reconsider our position on any issue if presented with alternative thoughts?

No, you don’t need to convince me that you would – you need to convince yourself.

The second half of the issue is the fact that many of the people who delude themselves that they are infallible are also under the impression that they are able to honestly analyze every situation (but they just happen to always be right). How do you deal with someone who is always convinced of their infallibility and accuracy?

There are two options, really. On the one hand, you can choose to ignore such people. This works if you aren’t forced to interact with that person, and their decisions do not impact you directly. If you are able to take this route, it is certainly the easier path.

The second option is if you will be affected by the deluded decisions, or gross incompetence. In that case, you truly do have to deal with the person and their decisions. Again, you have a few options:

  • You can ignore their decisions, and do things your way, and hope that in hindsight, it will become apparent that your way was the correct way. The risk, of course, is that if you fail, you will be blamed for not following the instruction, and if you succeed, you are unlikely to be awarded the credit.
  • You can work with the decision. In that case, make sure that any caveats, or arguments in opposition to the decision, are clearly documented. That way, you can protect yourself from taking the blame for the failure toward which you believe you’re headed.

How about you? What methods do you use to convince those who have difficulty seeing the other side of an argument?