In the illustration below, you can see six cubes.  If you focus on it in a slightly different way, you can see seven cubes.  Stare at the intersection of the lines inside the illustration and after a few moments, you will find the cubes flipping inside out and outside in.  Shifting your perspective determines what you see.

In the same way, our perceptual positions determine how we view things in our world.  Imagine that you are on the way to a Broadway play with a pair of tickets that cost one hundred dollars and discover you lost the tickets.  Would you pay another one hundred dollars?  Now imagine you are on your way to the theater to buy those tickets.  Upon arrival, you realize you lost one hundred dollars in cash.  Would you now buy tickets to the play?  Clearly, on an objective basis, the two situations are identical because in both you are one hundred dollars in the hole.  Nevertheless, most people report that they would be more likely to buy new tickets if they had lost the money than if they had lost the tickets.  The same loss is looked at differently from two different perspectives.  The loss of the cash has comparatively little effect on whether one buys new tickets.  On the other hand, the cost of the lost tickets is viewed as "attending the theater" and one is loath to accept the doubling of the cost of the play.

Change your perceptual position to look at your subject in different ways.  Following are a few techniques to help you do this:

SWITCHING GENDER

The way men and women relate provides one of the primary metaphors around which we construct our perceptions of how things work in business and the world.  Imagine, for a moment, that you would like a different point of view about a business situation (e.g., sales meetings, performance reviews, business lunches, etc.).  Instead of trying to will a change in perspective, try the following exercise:

  1. Close your eyes and relax.
  2. Imagine yourself in the following situations, one at a time, but imagine (physically, emotionally, mentally) you are of the opposite sex.
    1. Walking down a street and running into a friend of the same sex you are imagining yourself as being.
    2. Walking down a street and running into a friend of the opposite sex you are imagining yourself as being.
    3. Being on a public beach, wearing a bathing suit.
    4. Being at work, and dealing with members of the opposite sex.
    5. Being at a party, flirting and dancing.
    6. Being out on a date with a special friend.
    7. Being at home, after you and your spouse have had a hard day.
  3. Open your eyes and now examine the business situation from the viewpoint of the opposite sex.  Ask yourself, "How would I view the situation if I were of the opposite sex?"  Write down everything that comes to mind.

Does taking the role of the other sex lead you to notice things you normally would not?  What, for instance, do you find yourself noticing and thinking about as a member of the opposite sex?  What are the differences?  The similarities?  Do you find yourself approaching the situation differently?  Has your viewpoint changed? In what ways?

As you switch genders, notice how your attention and thoughts change.  You might find yourself, for instance, first thinking of competition as the spice of life and then shifting to regarding cooperation as the highest value.  Or, you might change your value system from one that is predicated on the past to one that emphasizes the values of the future.  What is happening is that by turning things around in your mind, you are breaking expectations in a variety of ways, which will generate new perspectives and new ways of looking at things.

Taking on the role of the opposite sex can also be both entertaining and emotionally enriching.  You will expand your empathic abilities and your flexibility in how you think of yourself.  This sort of self-observation while taking on a new mental role is especially helpful for developing empathy with the perspectives of another person.

Suppose, for example, that you are always arguing with a member of the opposite gender about company policies and procedures.  Instead of arguing your points to prove you are right and the other person is wrong, try playing this mental game and switch genders.  You'll find your perspective change from one of immediately trying to tear down the other person's position to one of looking for something positive that you can genuinely agree with or can use as a place to start for generating better ideas.

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

Imagine yourself in one of two scenarios. First, imagine you're the same sex as the other person. The two of you are friends, and you're leisurely walking side by side. You a have a certain belief about your subject and you want your friend to believe it too. With these thoughts in mind, imagine you turn to your friend. What do you say? How do you say it? Jot the answers to those questions down on paper. Do they spark any new insights?

In the second scenario, imagine you're the same sex, only this time the other person is not your friend. You're in a crowded, noisy restaurant. You know that the other person does not share your beliefs about your subject, and you feel that it's important for the company that this person adopt these beliefs. Once again, what do you say? How do you say it? Jot down the answers and see if they spark any new ideas.

The ideas stemming from the first scenario should feel highly personalized and warm. Perhaps your ideas will include words or images that the other person can connect with and understand. The ideas stemming from the second scenario will probably be more bottom-line oriented and impersonal. Perhaps they will include an objective idea that the other person can readily understand and accept.

Copyright 2003-2010, Michael Michalko, All Rights Reserved