It’s all a matter of perspective

Pictures like this (from here) make my brain hurt!

In my Relational Leadership class, my students and I discussed perspective today. Visual, conceptual, attributional. We looked at those double-image pictures where if you stare long enough, two different scenes emerge from the same pictures (see here for mind-blowing examples!). Later, they role-played perspective-taking as a means to diffuse conflict with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston’s “The Break Up” for inspiration. Turns out, I learned a valuable lesson myself.

More than a month ago and with a healthy dose of trepidation, I turned in a draft of my summer project to my professor. And waited. And waited. And checked Blackboard to see if my grade changed from “Not recorded” to something else. And waited some more, afraid to remind her. After five weeks, I found a good excuse to email and gently inquire. A week without response, and I was wondering if my email was somehow misdirected. Or worse, ignored.

Of course, I interpreted the e-silence to be censure. SHE HATES THE PAPER! That must mean I’m an idiot. Maybe she hates me too? Maybe she’s spent the last five weeks trying to craft an appropriately worded I-can’t-believe-we-let-you-in-here-with-this-non-sense letter.

Or, maybe she was just busy.

As it happens, I ran into her in the hallway this afternoon, a good five hours after our perspective taking activities. She mentioned having received my latest email and apologized for the delay, citing a crazy schedule. She’s been feverishly working on a project and will get to her stack of papers/emails this weekend.

Cue my breathing. I’d totally forgotten about her project, one that we’d discussed at length earlier in the semester. Now I’m laughing. While the paper seems like a hugemongous deal to me, from another perspective, it’s a lower priority issue… one without deadlines and hundreds of people waiting for its completion. (I know, shocking, people aren’t clamoring to read my shitty draft!)

And then it occurred to me how many attributions we make on a daily basis. Why is my husband not answering his email? Why is my best friend not writing me back? Why are my students acting so bored?? Perhaps it’s not that he is purposefully ignoring me, or that she is too absorbed in her own world, or that they are apathetic point-mongers. No, it is just as likely that he has busted his buns all day in meetings, or she is dealing with an ailing parent, or they are just tired/stressed/burned out mid-semester. Yeah, it’s apparently all perspective. And as much as we think ours is the most important, it is helpful (and sanity-inspiring) to realize it just isn’t. More to the point, if we stopped to consider the perspectives of others, ESPECIALLY before placing blame/pointing fingers/spending six weeks with an inferiority complex, we might have happier, healthier relationships.

Okay, I’m done now. This perspective is going to bed!


P/S In completely unrelated news, the weather in Cactus Land is DIVINE! I left on Friday and it was 108. Yesterday, the freak storms brought the temps to 75 and blessedly, they have stayed put. (With lightning, hail and gale-forced winds, but still, stayed put!)

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