When Everyone Is Right, Who's Wrong? Uncovering the Mystery of Perceptual Styles
Each of us perceives the world differently, not only because of differing perceptual styles, but also because of the various circumstances, goals, aspirations, ages and lifestyles we have. These individual experiences create different realities, each of which represents only part of the whole picture.
Recently a friend of mine who runs a retail business asked me to look over an email exchange that he had with one of his suppliers. Tom had produced a marketing campaign that the supplier felt was an attack on his products. Tom wanted me to analyze the interaction and tell him where the supplier had gone wrong in his thinking.
What's interesting is that as soon as I started reading the correspondence, it was clear to me that each of them had a different point of view - and each of them was defending his own position without giving any weight to the other's perspective. And, the really funny thing was, both viewpoints were perfectly valid.
So, who was right and who was wrong?
The answer is that both were right and both were wrong. Both were right about the points of view they were defending, however both were mistaken in thinking that theirs was the only legitimate point of view.
Since we only have access to what we perceive, we tend to defend our perception as the Truth (with a capital T), and overlook the ways other people see the situation. The way we see it is "right" and the way others see it is "wrong." Tom was defending his view of the Big Picture and his inability to see things from the supplier's perspective. This is what caused the miscommunication and conflict to arise.
It can be important to explain your perspective to someone else as a way to reach agreement. But trying to explain your point of view so that they will see things "correctly" rarely, if ever, leads to a positive outcome. Accepting that different views represent different aspects of the truth and that all contribute to a complete understanding is the way out of such "unsolvable" conflicts.
Try asking yourself the following questions when thinking back to the last disagreement you had.
- Who is that person, and how often do disagreements occur?
- As you think back, what was the major point of disagreement?
- Now that you are out of the heat of the moment, where can you find validity in the other's point of view?
- What evidence can you see of how that person might not have been able to understand your point of view?