It is often suggested that in order not to be locked into our own viewpoints we should try to see things from someone else’s point of view. ‘Walk a mile in their shoes’ as the saying goes. It can ease disagreements and aid understanding.
I thought so too, until I read some research that pointed out that this approach doesn’t always work.
Disagreements rarely get changed by one taking the time to watch a news program, read a book or magazine or listening to a podcast that spouts viewpoints different from yours.
It can actually make you double down on your viewpoint. Why?
Some experts may suggest it’s because you’re being rigid or closed minded. But there’s a better clearer explanation: The source isn’t right for you.
Many popular resources, such as a popular podcast, a bestselling book, article etc… are targeted for a particular audience and some of these sources may get pleasure (and attention) by denigrating ‘the other side’. So you’re defensive. It’s really hard to be open when someone is calling you an idiot. (Trust me I know).
Let me put it another way and get back to the premise of this post—slipping into someone else’s shoes.
Image you’re willing to do this experiment. You want to walk in someone else’s shoes, but you’re used to wearing sneakers and suddenly you’re being forced to wear high heels that are two sizes too small.
Owwww! The pain is so acute you can’t begin to take a single step forward let alone learn anything.
Thankfully all is not lost. This experiment can work. You can still find someone else’s shoes to wear, just ones that are closer to what you’re used to. How?
Find a source you already respect. I read a lot of books in different fields from people whose beliefs I don’t always agree with, but I respect them so much I listen and there are things that they say that get me thinking and seeing things in a new way. It’s thrilling. You can do the same.
Find a friend or colleague who differs from you on certain topics and ask certain questions and really listen (you don’t have to agree that’s not the point, it’s just a discussion and a chance to open your eyes).
Or find a group whose values you share, a cause you care about…there will likely be people in that group with differing viewpoints who want to arrive at the same destination you do but they want to get there in unique ways. That kind of interaction can make the journey interesting.
Respect, that’s the operative word. You respect them and they respect you; that is one secret to learning something new from someone else.
As a creative it’s critical to your work and our culture to know how to learn from others. There are many healthy, enlightening ways to expand your worldview.
Some can be a little uncomfortable at times, growth can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be painful.
So grab a different pair of shoes and walk on.
Image copyright © Daniel Reche/pixabay