You often enter into arguments on innumerable issues with your spouse, business partner, parents, friends, enemies or siblings on day to day basis. These arguments usually make you feel as if the person at the opposite end is not understanding what you are trying to put forth. You tend to think that your spouse or business partner is misunderstanding your words big time. And he is giving a different meaning to the whole conversation. This means that the meaning drawn out of the conversation is in accordance with his own story and not yours.
At that very moment, you get so frustrated from that person’s inability to understand your viewpoint that you do not pay heed to his perspective. Inside your mind, you keep on nurturing the seemingly harsh words, thoughts and wrong conceptions put forth by your spouse or business partner. His arguments hurt you to the core. In short, you start victimizing yourself. And you derive satisfaction by overlooking or ignoring the other person’s perspective.
Additionally, if such arguments happen repeatedly with that person, you tend to create an image of that person in your mind. Each time you try to hit a conversation with him on any issue, you have a story running in your head regarding that person. This story exists irrespective of the kind of opinions that person holds on the subject matter in question.
Thus, you start looking at that person with a particular lens that is formed on the basis of your encounters or experiences with him in the past. Your brain creates a map about that person which you believe is accurate and hence you start behaving with him according to your own map.
In short, you label the person based on your past experiences with him. And your attitude and behavior towards that person is in accordance with your perception or map regarding that person. What do you feel is happening here? Well, in psychology this is known as Pygmalion Effect or the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy!
What is Pygmalion Effect?
In the words of American Sociologist, Robert K. Merton, “The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.” He noted that when we expect certain behavior of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to happen.
Further, in the words of Lee Jussim, an American social psychologist “the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy refers to situations in which one person’s expectations about a second person lead the second person to act in ways that confirm the first person’s original expectations.”
This expectancy effect was labeled as the Pygmalion Effect by Robert Rosenthal, a leading Amercian Psychologist. So, to test the impact of such biases and expectations in school classrooms, he conducted a study.
Pygmalion Effect Case
As per the study, an IQ test (known as the Tests of General Ability or TOGA) was given to all students in grades one to six at an elementary school in California at the beginning of the academic year.
However, the teachers were told that the students were given the Harvard Test of Inflected Acquisition. Further, they were also notified that the scores of the Harvard Test would predict whether a student is a “Blooming Intellectual” or a “Spurting Dull”.
Thereafter, teachers were just given a list of the names of the students stating that these students had scored in the top 20% on the Harvard Test and were identified as academic “Bloomers” for the upcoming year.
Now, the entire catch of the experiment was that the students on the top 10 lists were assigned randomly. In reality, as we can ascertain from above, no Harvard Test was conducted. The students in the top 10 lists were randomly picked and labeled as “Bloomers”. Whereas the other students were acting as controls in the experiment as they were not labeled.
Furthermore, at the end of the academic year at school, students were given the TOGA test again to measure the change in their IQ levels at the end of the year. Thus, a significant gain in the IQ levels of experimental group of “intellectual bloomers” from the first and second grade levels was noticed. This led to the conclusion that the teacher’s expectations of their student’s behavior can influence student’s achievement.
Further, it was concluded that even the teacher’s attitude changed when they became aware of the academically bright students. They started paying closer attention to such students and even treated such children differently in times of difficulty.
How To Change Your Perspective?
As we can see from the above case study, it is clear that our perceptions are deeply embedded within our brains. These perceptions are a kind of a lens through which we see the world around us. Hence, the way we shape our world influences our attitudes and behaviors towards objects, people, situations, events and outcomes.
If our lens is conditioned to observe the negative attributes of a given circumstance, then our attitudes and behaviors are influenced in a negative way. Whereas, if we are guided by correct principles and values, we are bound to create accurate maps or paradigms. And these close to accurate maps influence our attitudes and behaviors in a positive way.
However, these close to accurate maps are created by constantly questioning your current paradigms and testing them against reality to get a more objective view of the situation. Thus, if you want to bring about a significant change in your life, it’s important to improve upon your paradigms. This is because these improved paradigms help you in living life in an effective way.
But, the point in question is how to change your paradigms? How to bring about a shift in the perspective that kinda govern us and help in seeing the world around us.
Well, here are certain ways in which you can bring about that change.
1. Focus On Inner Vs Outer Self
In an era where human beings have access to innumerable social platforms to propagandize their personal and professional lives, personality is overpowering character. Personality traits of a person like public image, communication skills, attitudes and behaviors are given more importance rather than character traits like integrity, simplicity, humility, patience and the like.
People are judged according to their outlook. Perceptions regarding people are formed on the basis of how they behave and not on what they are in true sense.Eventually, if that perception about a third person is in accordance with the social motives that guide the observer, then the person so judged is somehow a success. However, if a person’s attitude or behavior is not in accordance with the social motives that guide the observer, then the person so judged is inadequate, incomplete or a failure.
Here, is the observer doing a wise act by labeling a person as capable or incapable on the basis of his personality or outlook? How many of us have experienced such kind of situations, both at home or work, where you were labeled or categorized based on your attitude or behavior rather than your character?
I believe many! It is quite seldom an act on our part to separate ourselves from others and try to look at them with a paradigm that is in harmony with their identity and their values. Instead of questioning our own motives and seeing what things give self worth to other people, we try to perceive them with our own values and motives.
If an employee is relatively underperforming, we often create a map about his capabilities and potentialities based on his current performances. We do not try to understand the root cause of the problem and often label him as an underperformer. This is because his attitude or behavior is not in accordance with the attitudes or behaviors of the ones who are a success in our eyes.
Therefore, if you need to change your perspective, you need not judge or compare people based on social influences. Instead, you should see people or situations based on your values. If one of the values of your organization is the “intrinsic success of your employees”, then your attitude or behavior should be in accordance with such a value. You should work towards knowing about the things that motivate your employees and gives him self-worth.
2. Question Your Current Paradigms
We have been repeatedly talking about paradigms in this article. So what exactly is a paradigm?
Paradigm is a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model. It can be viewed as a model, assumption, theory or a pattern that helps to understand the more complicated processes in the physical reality in a simplified form.
Luc De Brandere, the author of “Thinking in New Boxes” terms these models as boxes. He suggests that every human idea can be interpreted with the help of these boxes. Thus, our brain constantly makes use of these boxes to interpret the world in front of us.
These boxes or paradigms help us in simplifying the things we encounter on a daily basis in the world like people, places and objects. Besides, these also help us in putting things into various categories and thus organizing them.
However, these paradigms or boxes represent reality unclearly. This means that although paradigms simplify our lives, these models should not be confused with reality.
For instance, you might say that a rainbow has seven colors. This fact is based on the principle that a human eye can see just seven colors and hence we believe that the rainbow has seven colors. But what’s the reality? Does a rainbow have just seven colors? As per scientific models, a rainbow is a spectrum of colors or light that appears in the sky. Humans are able to see only those wavelengths of light that are within the visibility range of the human eye.
Likewise, it is not mandatory that the boxes that are created inside our brain regarding objects, people and places are accurate. We make use of these boxes based on the assumption that they are accurate or close to accurate. This means we believe that the way we see the things around us is the way things are in reality or this is how they are supposed to be.
We never question these boxes or paradigms and that’s what makes us see things according to our own values and ridicule the viewpoints of other people. Thus, if we want a broader perspective in life, we need to keep examining these paradigms and test them against reality. Remember, these paradigms or boxes are always open to rectification and even replacement.
3. Shift Your Paradigms If Need Be
The term paradigm shift was identified by Thomas Kuhn, the American physicist and philosopher, in his book titled “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Thus according to Kuhn, paradigm shift means a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline.
He presents this notion of paradigm shift by comparing two alternating periods of science – normal science and scientific revolution. Accordingly, paradigm shifts occur when dominant paradigms that govern normal science are considered inappropriate with the upcoming of new phenomena. Further, these phenomena lead to adopting new models or paradigms.
As mentioned in the previous point, our mind creates models or paradigms based on our experience with the world around us. These paradigms help in perceiving or interpreting the physical world. Further, these paradigms also influence our attitudes and behaviors towards these people, objects or places that we confront in our daily lives.
Thus, if we want to change our perspective, we need to keep on questioning our mental models or paradigms. This is because these paradigms are conditioned by various influences in our lives. Those influences include our family, school, workplace, friends and social environment.
Furthermore, we should test these paradigms against reality and change or improve them as we become aware of new facts or theories. We should try to align these models with the fundamental principles of integrity, justice, humility, modesty and temperance. Only then we will be able to get a broader view of the underlying situation or circumstance.
4. Enhance Your Ability To Listen
Changing your current paradigms or mental models is not easy. Besides testing your current models and aligning them with fundamental principles, you also need to learn the art of listening.
Listening to the ideas or viewpoints put forth by others requires a great amount of patience, broad-mindedness and an intent to understand. Thus, a person needs to possess maturity and character qualities like integrity, humility, patience and modesty in order to listen to the ideas contributed by others.
But in order to possess emotional maturity and fundamental character traits, it takes a huge amount of effort and time.
Consider the life cycle of a tree. It begins with a seed, and then it grows into a sprout. After this phase, it grows into a sapling and then eventually becomes a mature tree. In this natural process of growth and development, no step can be compromised or ignored. Similarly it takes time for a person to develop each of these character traits.
Thus, in order to understand the perspective of others, we need to listen to their viewpoints. But the art of listening doesn’t come that easily. For that, you need to work relentlessly towards building on fundamental character traits like patience and understanding.
If you are in possession of such maturity, patience and understanding, only then will you be able to perceive the other person’s perspective.
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