Perspective is a good thing. It can facilitate conversations. It can help stave off arguments and keep anger in check. It encourages understanding. Perspective gives insight. But sometimes, having perspective can be problematic.
Understanding the other person’s point of view can sometimes impede the drawing of necessary lines. You “get” them. You understand their feelings so you don’t stand for yourself or push disagreement; you don’t want them to feel bad. You let it go, whatever “it” is, even if they’re in the wrong. You soften. You prevaricate. You avoid causing distress because you know holding your line will cause it.
In a way, it’s self-preservation. Sometimes, telling people things they need to hear that conflict with the story they’ve told themselves makes them angry. Not agreeing with their recitations will often have the same effect.
If anger is going to result, I tend to avoid the discussion entirely. I smile and nod and move on. This is because I do anger badly. It scares me; it intimidates me. Plus, the potential for violence is a worry, even though I tell myself I’m in a different time and place and with a different person from events of yore.
I ignore what I know to be true and carry-on with the path of affirmation and least resistance. But by avoiding conflict, you let a train of events carry on that will not end well. Knowing that and keeping quiet about it is not an act of friendship.
But then, true friendship is problematic if you’re a people pleaser. Desperation to keep the peace can prevent you from being honest.
And, how honest should you be when you talk to people? There’s honest and then there’s honest. Should you discuss things people haven’t yet acknowledged to themselves? To what degree? If the honesty too much is it helping or harming? Should you let them know when they’re in the wrong if it will cause serious distress?
Am I obligated to fully disclose what I think or can I pick and choose? If what I think would cause pain but wouldn’t lead to behavioural changes and would end with me being attacked, is there a point to speaking at all? Am I ethically obligated to? Will speaking damage to our relationship? Will remaining silent cause harm?
Perspective is a gift but it’s also a skill. You get better with age and experience. The older you get, the more you know. The more you know, the better your predictive abilities are. You can see possible outcomes more clearly. If you choose to. Not everyone embraces perspective.
Perspective is great when you see good things coming but it’s less thrilling when you predict disaster. When you know that people are going to get in trouble, be hurt, or suffer in some way. It’s hard too, when people aren’t interested in hearing what you think unless it reaffirms what they believe. When you see roadblocks and obstacles and problems, people often don’t want to know. Questions seeking advice are often requests for confirmation in disguise. Most of the time, we prefer the echo chamber.
What then, is the best way to wield the tool?
As always, the answer is judiciously and with compassion.
It is never wrong to be kind. I find that position rarely squares with complete, blunt, and unfettered honesty. Sometimes it’s best to focus on what someone is ready to hear. Regardless of how it’s used or how often, in the end, perspective is a good. It’s a boon to be able to understand someone else’s point of view. Even if you can’t share what you know with someone, what you know for yourself can inform and moderate how you choose to act.
Do you have perspective? Do you think having perspective is important?