The Importance of Perspective Taking

The Importance of Perspective Taking by Kara Grafft, Education Liaison

As a mother of two boys I’m familiar with what skills are traditionally viewed as superpowers; flying, super strength, slam dunks and posterizing, shapeshifting, and teleportation. Don’t get me wrong, these are exceptionally cool. However, throughout my years in the mental health field, I’ve discovered a superpower I believe to be even more powerful than a radioactive spider bite or a nuclear blast.

Perspective Taking!

Ok ok, I’ll allow that at first glance it may not have the same appeal as the previously stated superpowers, but let me explain.

Perspective-taking is the all-important skill of being able to look at things from a point of view other than our own. When we are able to reflect on someone else’s point of view, we offer compassion and empathy to that interaction. When these qualities are present in our interactions, mutual respect, success, and movement forward are guaranteed. When we get stuck in ‘my way or the highway’ thinking or right vs. wrong, we aren’t building bridges to a solution, we are creating roadblocks.

One of my favorite ways to explore perspective taking with a group or team is with a Values Circle rooted in Restorative Practice Principles. When we are able to discover what someone’s core values are, it helps us to have a greater understanding of where they are coming from as they operate in their day/life.

For example, if a co-worker shares one of their top core values is safety, it helps us understand why they may pay more attention to incoming weather reports, take a long time making decisions, or spend extra time with sanitizing or crisis preparations. Instead of being frustrated about their additional questions or time, we can shift our thinking from a place of irritation to compassion and understanding.

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We’re living in a unique time and as we approach the start of school, perspective-taking can help us to understand others and ensure empathy and grace in our everyday interactions.

Here are two sample Values Circle scripts for you to try!

Script 1

Opening: Share a quote about Values. For example:

“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave ‘em all over everything you do.” –Elvis Presley

“Your core values are the deeply held beliefs that authentically describe your soul.” –John C. Maxwell

Prompt Options

  • Identify a value that is important to you in relationships.
  • What core value guides your work?
  • How do your core values show up in your day-to-day life?
  • When do you feel you’re living in alignment with your core values? When do you feel you’re out of alignment with your core values?

Script 2

Identify Core Value and place in the center of the circle: Provide post-it notes and have people write their own and place them in the center OR spread out The Values Cards in the center of the circle and have people choose one, then offer the following prompt:

Reflection

  • Share why you choose the word you did and how this value is expressed in your work/life.

Closing

“Perspective-taking is taking on the perspective of others. It’s what we do anytime we buy a gift for someone else (‘What would they like?’). So it means breaking the golden rule (‘Treat others the way you want to be treated’) and instead acknowledges that others may not want what you want.” –David Livermore