Effective communication means crossing the bridge between different perspectives. What did you see that I didn’t? And are you aware of what I saw that you didn’t? Can you first understand my perspective before you try to convey yours?
If you want me to understand you, you first need to understand me.
If you want to convince me to consider your point of view, you must first demonstrate that you understand my point of view.
If we are each blind to the other’s perspective we will never agree.
This ancient poem from John G. Saxe about the Six Blind Men Who Went to See the Elephant demonstrates the differences of perspectives and the challenge of understanding. When you read this poem, notice the perspective and certainly of each blind man. Consider that there are times that we might be blind to other perspectives.
The Six Blind Men And The Elephant
who went to see the elephant (Though all of them were blind),
that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.
against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the elephant, is nothing but a wall!”
so very round and smooth and sharp? To me tis mighty clear,
this wonder of an elephant, is very like a spear!”
the squirming trunk within his hands, “I see,” quoth he,
the elephant is very like a snake!
“What most this wondrous beast is like, is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“Tis clear enough the elephant is very like a tree.
can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an elephant, is very like a fan!
than, seizing on the swinging tail, that fell within his scope,
“I see,” quothe he, “the elephant is very like a rope!”
each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!
So, oft in theologic wars, the disputants, I ween,
tread on in utter ignorance, of what each other mean,
and prate about the elephant, not one of them has seen!
Now, read this again seeing yourself in the role of each blind man making their observations and drawing their certain conclusions. Perhaps someone has done that you recently – or perhaps you are guilty of the same crime.
Are you ready to see what others see that you haven’t seen yet? You don’t need to agree. Simply recognize that the other perspective exists.