A couple once relayed a funny story to me that confirmed the importance a simple shift in perspective can play in transforming a conflict. After decades of marriage, something happened that shed light on an ongoing battle between them.
With a new look at the same old issues, their conflict ended.
Every night, when the couple watched television in their family room, the wife would reach for a blanket and complain that the room was too cold. Her husband, on the other hand, would respond by rolling his eyes and laughing, reassuring his wife that their home was actually quite warm. In fact, after several minutes into the movie, he would routinely switch on a fan pointed directly on him. The wife, after countless episodes of this, assumed her husband really had no use for the fan, other than to prove a point.
They each became more entrenched in their respective positions -- both physically and emotionally -- for years.
Then, one evening, for no particular reason, the man sat on his wife's side of the room. For the first time, he felt a chill. He realized that indeed there was a draft that blew directly on his wife's side of the room. He invited her to come in and sit in his seat. After a few minutes, she smiled and announced that she was finally warm.
They laughed as they relayed this story, realizing how valuable this lesson was. They were pleased that this new view of their living room enabled them to enjoy evenings at home together from that point forward.
Mediators often ask people in conflict with one another to consider new perspectives by swapping seats.
This can help bridge understanding between parties. It can be a risky move if the parties aren't ready to demonstrate empathy or if one party truly does not see the other person's perspective.
With fresh perspectives, opportunities often reveal themselves to us.
By simply changing our perspective of a situation, we can not only demonstrate an openness to possibilities, but also contribute to the creative problem-solving process.
So, next time a situation gives you a chill, consider a new view.
Meanwhile, check out the strategies in our free workbook, How to Respectfully Disagree Like a Pro.