Perspective

My working definition for perspective is “an insight into another person by being sensitive and understanding to all the information known about that person and their situation.”

Webster’s definition is “the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed, also: point of view.”

One of the biggest roadblocks to becoming a quality communicator is that many of us think that we already are. Truth be known, if you ask the people around you if you are a good communicator, you may be very surprised by the results. The reason that we feel this way is because we assume everyone thinks like us, or, at least, they should. Thus, we think the way we communicate is the standard for all quality communications. The reality is that there are over seven billion people in the world, and none of them think in the exact same way.

One ready example are the significant differences found between men and women. Thousands of books have been written, and many seminars given, over our gender difference. These are just a few I have collected from various sources and there is plenty more:

*Women outlive men by three to four years

*Women have a larger stomach, kidneys, liver, and appendix, but smaller lungs than men

*Women are more responsive emotionally, laughing and crying more readily

*Women have three physiological functions that are totally absent in men—menstruation,

pregnancy, and lactation

*A woman’s heart beats more rapidly than a man, and their blood pressure on average is

10 points lower than men

*A man’s lung capacity is about 30% more than that of a woman

*Men and women can be said to differ in every cell of their bodies because of differing

chromosome patterns

*High school and college-age males and females even carry their books differently—men

tend to carry them on their sides, while women usually cradle their books closer to their

chest, in much the same way they would a baby.

The list goes on. As a man or a woman we have totally different outlooks, experiences, and perspective than the other 50% of the world’s population.

Another example is how we, as Americans, think that the world should think like us, strive for democracy, enjoy freedom, and have the opportunities of capitalism. But, for whatever reason, most people in other countries do not understand us or we them. When we add in the different cultural factors, race, religions, values, experiences, relationships, not to mention that God, in His wisdom, wired us all differently, we really do not have a total commonality with any other person on earth. Everyone has their own story, and their story is different from the other seven billion people with which they share a planet. Therefore, their perspective and the way they think is different from yours. Of course, sometimes we share the perspective of our church friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc., but that is because we tend to find people that have similar beliefs and outlooks to our own.

To have great communication skills, you must try understand the other person and their perspective, intentionally trying to understand their particular story, who they are and why they think the way they do. Understanding their perspective is a necessity for great communications.

How do we do this? Mostly we become great listeners.

When I when I first got married, my wife and I, already having two children (she brought the two to the marriage), would go on vacations, and mostly by automobile. As we would drive down the highway, my wife would turn to me and ask, “Are you thirsty?” And I would say, “No, I’m fine,” and continue to drive. Over the years I learned that my wife and I definitely do not think along the same lines. I clearly understand today that my wife was not asking me if I was thirsty, but she wanted to let me know that she was thirsty. My perspective is “Honey, you are my wife and I love you. I don’t want you to be thirsty. All you have to do is say ‘I’m thirsty, let’s get a drink,’ and I would have pulled off at the next exit and gotten you a drink.” To this day I do not know why she just does not just ask, but I do know that when my wife asks if I am hungry or thirsty, she really means that she is hungry or thirsty. Therefore, now my response is always “How about you? Are you hungry or thirsty?”

Jesus was the master of understanding the perspective of everyone he encountered during His ministry.

Mathew 19:16-22

 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17. “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18. “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony,19. honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”20. “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21. Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. 22. When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because hehad great wealth.

Jesus already had a true understanding of this person’s character. He did not ask him about Exodus 20:17a, which says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.” Jesus knew his heart and understood his perspective. So, as Jesus often did, he went right to his point and asked the man to sell his possessions and follow Him. Our, and the disciple’s perspective, might have been that this man is rich—he certainly can contribute to the cause, so let us tell him is that he is on the right track, and that helping our ministry financially would be great—which was the opposite of what Jesus did, and exactly wrong. We are not Jesus, but it is important that we try to understand, to the best of our ability, the perspective of other people.

We must try to discover their thoughts and ideas when engaging in a conversation. Ask yourself the following questions as you are listening:

 What is their point?

 Why is this important to them?

 Why are they looking at this differently than me?

 Ask for clarity, repeat back to them for clarity if necessary

If you intentionally try to understand the other person to the best of your ability, the

quality of your conversations will immediately improve.