I saw a great quote the other day. It said, “Just because you are right does not mean I am wrong. You just haven’t seen life from my side.” This concept is very applicable in communication between partners. Even though most of us may not realize what we are doing, we often go into a mode of trying to defend ourselves and prove who is right in a conversation. Time and again in therapy (and in my own personal life!) I have seen that trying to prove you are right will usually get you nowhere. So, how should we be communicating instead? As the quote said, we haven’t seen life from the other side. This means we must take the other person’s perspective and try to broaden our view of the situation and how our partner is feeling.
Here are a few tips on how to engage in perspective-taking in your communication.
- Listen. Instead of jumping to defending yourself, let your guard down and really listen to your partner.
- Put yourself in the other’s shoes. You know your partner well, so you should be able to put yourself in his or her shoes and see the situation in a way they might see it but be careful not to make assumptions.
- Seek to understand. Again, instead of defending, try to understanding where the other person is coming from.
- Focus on emotions rather than specific details. You are most likely not going to agree on the details in an argument (one of you sees a six and one of you sees a 9). However, if you try to understand how your partner was feeling instead, you can show empathy and understanding.
- You don’t have to agree. Remember that seeing someone else’s perspective doesn’t mean you are “giving in” or that you have to agree. Understanding is different than agreeing.
- Ask questions. Assuming what your partner means or is saying can lead to unnecessary misunderstandings. When you are perspective-taking, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. “I’m hearing you say..” “Is that correct?” “Is this how you see it?”