Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

Seeing things another way

When we try to see things from other peoples' perspectives the world can look a whole lot different. Photo by kconnors, courtesy of morguefile

My husband and I recently watched “Inventions that shook the world” on Amazon Prime. Broken into one episode per decade, the 2012 series of ten episodes takes us through the 1900s. While sometimes an invention was a happy accident, more often than not someone was trying to solve what he or she saw as a problem or a need, and drew on experiences from unrelated knowledge or experiences to apply this new insight. Perhaps it for the same reason that I enjoy the show Shark Tank. When people present their solutions to needs they see – whether or not the sharks think the need is great enough to scale into a multimillion dollar business – what we are witnessing is curiosity, creative thinking, a wish to help make lives easier or better. By looking at something differently, these inventors and entrepreneurs see possibilities and then turn them into reality.

The Inventions series made me think of another series I had watched a few episodes of. Called Abstract: The Art of Design, that Netflix series focused on people who used design in spectacular and interesting ways. In “How we achieve genius,” I blogged, “The interdisciplinary aspect of their thinking stems from curiosity and wonder, yes, but also from being exposed to experiences and knowledge outside of their areas of specialization.” I noted that this can come from being exposed to different fields and to the humanities, but it can also come from working with others from fields different than one’s own. I ended with an invitation for those who would like to come together to problem solve whatever issues come to mind.

No one took me up on the offer.

Still, that’s what came to mind again after watching Inventions: Would it be great to host a periodic virtual get together whre participants could address issues big and small. An exercise in thinking.

But there is another great way every single one of us can make our world a better place. One that doesn’t involve broad backgrounds or multi-person groups.

And that is simply to try and see the world from any perspective other than your own.

I think about those whose lives are in diametric opposition or in tension with each other, such as liberals and conservatives, religious and secular, Israeli and Palestinian – and I think how useful it would be if each person tried to see the world through the eyes of a person sitting on the facing side of the disagreement. The possibilities for moving close towards sharing goals or working towards solutions, instead of trying to thwart each other, are enticing, don’t you think?

This idea – putting yourself in another’s shoes – doesn’t only have to take place regarding opposing groups. You can do this in your small circle. Parents can think about how their children receive their words, about what their day was like from their perspective. Coworkers including those on different rungs in their workplace hierarchy can try to engage themselves in what issues are concerning the other.

In marketing, people designing ads or other communications are told to make up an individual in their mind who represents their target audience. This is not so different. When it comes to interpersonal relations: How will your words be received? Will they be clear and understood? How can we make our communications easier in 3 ½ steps?

How can we see things another way?

About the Author
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Wendy lived in Jerusalem for over a decade submerged in Israeli culture; she has been soaked in Southern life in metro Atlanta since returning to the U.S. in 2003. An Ashkenazi mom to Mizrahi sons born in Israel and the US, a DIL born in France and a step mom to sons born in the South, she celebrates trying to see from multiple perspectives and hope this comes out in her blogs. Wendy splits her time between her research position at the Center for Israel Education, completing dual master's degrees in public administration and integrated global communications, digging into genealogy and bring distant family together, relentlessly Facebooking, and enjoying the arts as well. All of this is to say -- there are many ways to see and understand.
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