Dr. Rich Patterson

One Perspective

One of the areas of which I have worked to improve is that of perspective.  I still find myself seeing things through my life-lens, insisting that I am right.  When I stop and really consider someone else’s thoughts, I quickly realize that their perspective can work just as well and maybe even better than what I thought.  You remember when you were a kid that your parents always thought they were right and that you always thought they were wrong.  Then as you got older you realized how right they often were, but still, their insistence on following their way did not build a relationship with you.

As parents, when our thoughts are dominant, when we insist that we are right, we risk any future relational development.  Our strong opinions actually close doors much more so than open them.  By forcing kids to see things the way we see them, we are not listening to them, regardless of the logic of their thoughts. As humans, we must feel listened to first before we will listen.  Good parents know this and are willing to let go of their opinions in favor of learning more about how their kids think about something.

This is most difficult to apply when there is a problem or when things are really tense.  As a parent, I certainly did not always do this right.  I would insist that they think a certain way, that they almost anticipate how something should go and in the process, I would lose my connection with them.  This really applies to conversations that we have with anyone.  When we talk mostly about ourselves, our problems, how things should be from our perspective, that is the clue to us that we need to look at others’ perspectives.  The great part about perspective is when we take time to understand something from their view, suddenly it makes sense.  It is like playing baseball.  There is one perspective from home base when you’re trying to hit the ball, another from the pitcher who is trying to keep you from hitting the ball, and still another from the outfielder who is trying to catch your hit and get you called ‘out’.

Perspective is key and if we can only catch ourselves in the act, suspend our stories, judgments, statements and demands and say, “Sorry, I want to hear about this from your perspective.”  or “Good, you see it differently, I want to hear about that.”  Perspective came to mind in my own life when I was having a difficult time in college.  Finances were tight, classes were demanding and difficult and the daily struggle was coming to a real head in terms of my ability to cope.  Then one day while I was on the train riding home, I spoke with a young man who had some huge health issues.  He told me in great detail about the treatments he had tried and how they had not worked.  He was quickly facing his own demise if something didn’t take hold.  I got off the train at my stop with a new perspective on my little problems.  I felt empowered to give that young man some encouragement to help him to find some additional resources.  As I was walking to my apartment I felt a certain lift in my step—a new perspective if you will.

Rich