You Use Your Teeth More Than You Use a Car – How Our Role Shifts Our Perspective

 In Better Life, Communication, Relationships

I was complaining that my teeth have cost me a lot of money. “In fact,” I whined, “I could buy a really nice car with all the money I’ve spent at the dentist.” The other person had no sympathy. She responded, “You use your teeth a lot more than you use a car.”

Her comment really helped me shift my perspective. She had a good point! Of course, her training as a dental hygienist helped shape her thoughts. 

I find it fascinating how our perspective influences so many aspects of our lives. We may experience the same situation, the same information, as someone else, but we will likely interpret it differently based on our past experience, our training, our childhood, our culture, our personality, etc. This can lead to all kinds of conflict, frustration, and challenges at work and at home because we like our own perspective; we’re comfortable with it and we understand it.

Another emotional and amazing example is the courtroom scene from the movie, A Time to Kill. Samuel L. Jackson plays the role of a father who murdered two white men that raped and tortured his 10-year-old daughter. He did it because he believed these men would walk free because his daughter was African-American. The story takes place in Mississippi when the Ku Klux Klan was popular. It’s an all-white jury and the consensus is that it’s likely the father will hang. The defending lawyer of the father asks the jury to close their eyes while he retells the morbid details of what the little girl went through. As he finishes, he says, “Now imagine that she was white.” He’s changing their perspective by providing them with a huge role shift, from white jury member to horrified parent. As a result, the father is found innocent.

This week, as you encounter a situation, a person, an interaction; think about the perspective you bring. What role are you seeing it from? A parent? Your political party? Your religious beliefs? Your job as a caregiver, mechanic, engineer, dental hygienist, etc.? What if you were to shift roles and see it from a different perspective? How might that change your “interpretation”, your thoughts, words, and actions? How might it bring more understanding, more tolerance, more empathy? Give it a try!

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