Last time, we mentioned empathy, perspective taking and self-reflection are significant capacities in social activities and introduced how empathy helps us enhance emotional bonds with others（Developing Empathy: A Way to Enhance Emotional Bonds With Others）. Today we will talk about perspective-taking.
Perspective-taking means to infer the mental process of others, that is, he or she can think from others’ point of view. Accurate perspective-taking allows us to understand others’ priorities and motivations, to anticipate their behaviors, and even to predict their reactions successfully. It helps us to convey our intentions, to negotiate and cooperate with others, to effectively communicate, and to show our compassion and kindness.
If lacking perspective-taking, we are more likely to act inappropriately, such as being too eager, too pressing, too detached, even trapped into social gaffes. As a result, we will gradually lose interest in any kind of communication with others because of defence mechanism (protecting us from the feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, guilty and so on which derived from awkward interactions) and then withdraw from social life.
Unlike the trick of mind-reading promoted by popular culture, perspective-taking is a mental skill to facilitate our daily conversations with others. To get the skill, we should keep the following tips in mind:
To realize the tendency of unconscious favoring our own point of view. Our own perspective is so apparent to us that we often overlook other people’s point of view. For example, sometimes our good intentions are misinterpreted by others through face to face contact, not to speak of through typewriting chat online or email. But oftentimes we tend to assume such misinterpretations are caused by other people instead of us.
To realize the tendency of taking ourselves as standing point to evaluate other people’s view. We often prefer to accept the view of people who are similar to us other than those who are different.
To remember that other people’s mindscape is usually far more different from ours. From this perspective, we should make efforts to know how other people may see things, how they may react, or how their agenda may be different from our own. But unfortunately, most of us are unlikely to take these into account in a conversation. For example, when we tell a joke, we usually give almost exclusive priority to whether we find the joke is funny or not, rather than considering it in others’ shoes.
Above all, we should always remind ourselves how other people’s point of view may differ from our own, what their mindscape may be, and what their frame of thinking may be. We should also pay more attention to the others’ priorities, preferences, and even stereotypes, to the history between us, and to the context of current situation. Taking a few minutes to think these questions will facilitate your communications with others. By the way, to reduce misunderstanding in communication，we’d better start a conversation face to face instead of online typewriting .