I went to an amazing training programme through work a little while ago and have found it truly transformational to how I think, see and interact with the world. I feel like this training has changed me but I haven’t been able to vocalise the change very well (it’s all a bit muddled in my head).
This morning, I want to work out how I might communicate it with others and so I thought I would start by sharing what I’ve learnt with you, dear friend.
It touches on how we interact with each other and how we interpret the world; how we make sense and meaning of what’s going on in each and every moment and in the words of what I learnt on the course, it’s all about perspective taking.
What do I mean by this?
First Person Perspective
Well, we can all see things from our own point of view – what’s going on for us (how we feel and think about things). Sometimes it is all that we can see (especially when we’re feeling a strong negative emotion) and when this happens, it can limit our ability for connection with others.
Second Person Perspective
However, we can often also see things from another person’s point of view (what we think is going on for them – how they feel, understand and think about things). It’s not to say that what we understand about them is right, but the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes impacts how we understand the world and other people.
Third Person Perspective
Another way we can see the world is by stepping back and asking ourselves ‘what’s going on here?‘ – looking at the dynamics of the situation between two or more people to get greater understanding.
In this example, where I’m cross and my husband is defensive, it’s more often than not because Gregg will have put his dirty plates on the kitchen counter instead of directly stacking things in the dishwasher. When he does this (and when I’m at my least generous) I get angry because I think he’s being lazy, inconsiderate and more importantly, I feel he expects me to tidy up after him, because invariably I’m the one who puts all the dirty dishes away.
Another more meaningful example of asking myself ‘what’s going on?‘ is when I meet new people and find myself comparing myself to them – looking at how I stack up against them in terms of looks, body size and what other people’s reactions are to us. They may be completely oblivious to this, but when I ask myself ‘what’s going on between us?’ I know that I’m feeling insecure and am making comparisons for reassurance of being ‘better’ or confirmation of being ‘lacking’. It’s not something I’m proud of, but knowing this can give me greater clarity and (hopefully!) help me to react differently.
Fourth Person Perspective
The final way we can look at the world is through taking a further step back to inquire and ask ‘what is shaping how I view what’s going on in the situation?’
This step makes my brain go a bit funny if I think about it too much, but if I relax and answer the question without thinking too much, the outcome I get is truly staggering.
With the situation with Gregg and the dish washer stacking, I realise that my view is shaped by my desire for him to do things exactly the way I would do things. And I see that this leads to me having little patience for him doing things in his own way. I also realise that I equate his actions of stacking the dishwasher as a sign of how much he loves me. In asking myself what’s shaping how I view the situation, I’m not excusing his defensiveness or taking responsibility for the whole situation. It allows me to distance myself and, instead of just getting angrier and angrier over time, choose a different path.
It has enabled me to know that my way isn’t the only way of being. So I’ve started to leave his plates on the side and see that he eventually puts them in the dishwasher. Not in my ‘perfect-straight-away‘ time, but in his own ‘perfectly-ok‘ time.
It also allows me to have a conversation which cuts through his defensiveness:
“…when you don’t put the plates away in the dishwasher, it makes me feel like you don’t value me and expect me to do all the work around the house. It makes me feel like you don’t respect me.”
In short, this question and different way of looking at things gives me choices. It gives me options. It gives me greater clarity.
And what about when I’m with new people and find my comparison going into overdrive…? Asking myself what’s shaping how I view the situation is truly life changing. And here’s what I’ve been able to tell myself:
You’re feeling uncomfortable in a new situation and in the past when you’ve felt uncomfortable you’ve brought yourself comfort by reassuring yourself about how you measure up to other people. But now you know better, dear one. You know that who you are and your self-worth isn’t defined by other people or how pretty/slim/clever/desired you are compared to others. You know that your self-worth is defined by how much you love and accept yourself. And you love yourself fully and accept yourself completely. So stop measuring yourself against others and be present in the moment.
It is life changing. To step out of this cycle of comparison and look for feelings of security within instead of the reassurances I get from others. It makes me so happy, it fills me with such contentment, it allows me to be fully present in the moment with that new person.
When I started the training, I never dreamt that it would bring me such transformation. But it has. And I hope that what I’ve shared with you – these different perspectives – can also lead to transformation in your life.