Why Does Every Voice Matter? The Importance of Hearing Different Perspectives
May all of us be able to form better conclusions and make better decisions.
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” — — Bill Bullard
“I know I am right” and “You are just wrong”. All of us might have spoken these lines at least once, most probably many more times in our life, maybe between a debate or a discussion, or in arguments or fights. Now, the statements themselves are not the problem and maybe sometimes someone is exactly right and the other one is exactly wrong but it’s how much time we put into hearing the other person’s perspective and how much time we put in to see and think through the other person’s point of view before we make a conclusion and even if made a conclusion, was the motivation to say someone is wrong is just an emotional attack onto that person or is it that our ego is not allowing us to accept the rightness in the other person or is it the concern to make that person understand?
Each and every one of us want to be right or at least we want others to perceive our point as right, though the reasons for such a tendency may vary. Unfortunately, we are humans and hence not supernatural. Everyone cannot be right. This implies that every one of us has more than enough chance to be wrong in many areas, in many points we make, in many arguments we argue, in many answers we answer and that’s fine and more importantly that is normal. That just shows you are a human. Admitting we are wrong does not lower our dignity. It shows we are responsible, humble, and moreover growing intellectually. Only when we understand our mistakes we are able to improve ourselves.
Now does that mean we should admit that we are wrong even if we are right? Absolutely not, and I have done that mistake to not break some relations. So, now I know why it was not a good idea. It is never about admitting we are wrong even if we are right. It’s about whether we have considered the perspective of the other person and when we consider others' perspectives, sometimes we may get surprised and ask ourselves “Isn’t what he/she telling is right? Why have I never thought about this?”
Now, a pretty simple question: What is that image about? It’s a deer crossing the road. Hmm, exactly that’s what it is about and we can see with our own eyes that there is a deer crossing the road.
Now, change the perspective. Think from the perspective of the deer. When we do that, we find that to be precise, it’s not the deer crossing the road but a road crossing the forest.
The forest is the habitat of the deer and it is we who have built roads through its habitat. To the deer, it’s just roaming around its homeland. Will we ever be able to see that dimension without considering the perspective of the deer?
Perspective-taking¹ or “theory of mind,” involves reasoning about the mental states of others (e.g., their intentions, desires, knowledge, beliefs). Egocentrism² is the opposite of perspective-taking which is the inability to consider others’ perspectives.
As far as we are humans and not supernatural, perspective-taking is the only way by which we can form better decisions, find better solutions or answers, ask better questions, get closer to truth or understand reality. As all of us have heard perception is reality and not using perspective-taking may lead one to not live in the reality for their whole life.
Why should we care about all of these?
This is a question that comes to my mind very often: “Shafi, why do you care about all of these? Think about something that is useful for you. Be productive my boy”. That question was not pointless. It was holding some truth in it. After all, I have heard many people tell to not care about these things that are not useful to oneself. It’s the era of “Be yourself and don’t care about what others think”. It does not matter what is the view of others.
While it is bad to always think about what others are thinking about you and it is bad to judge others based on irrelevant parameters, it is equally bad to not take into consideration the voice of others. Listen to everyone but not believe everyone nor make conclusions merely from others views.
What we gain from considering others' perspectives is data. Gain the data and get more insights into the data by using tools such as the internet, books, articles, or speeches and then let your mind analyze it with your intelligence, knowledge, experiences. and form conclusions based on that. This simple yet powerful strategy helped me to get more accurate insights on different subjects.
What if one just did not care about others’ perspectives and only thinks about matters or views that are useful to him or in favor of him? He is just not going to identify any of his mistakes and live his whole life believing that the mistakes he made were actually the mistake of others. He just starts to blame everyone else for his mistakes too. In his perspective, he will be the one who is right and he sees no point in considering others’ perspectives.
Role of technology in perspective-taking
Technology, especially information technology is wonderful, marvelous, fantastic, and powerful. Like any other powerful tool, technology too can be used for good and for bad on a large scale.
The internet can give us a lot of information regarding almost all of the topics we could ever imagine. This is helpful for perspective-taking because the internet is a place where we can see lots of different perspectives and therefore we can make better conclusions as we have more data.
Personally, the internet has helped me a lot in making conclusions on different matters. For example, when I code and when a doubt arises about which method is better to accomplish the particular task, I search for the pros and cons of each method. These helped me most of the time to make better decisions.
The problem is when we are not aware of polarization, especially in social media the algorithms which are intended to show what is interesting to us do their work with a very good score.
Now that is good and it only becomes a problem when we blindly believe that the only perspectives existing out there are the ones that the algorithm is showing. That leads us to egocentric behavior by taking away our ability to see others’ perspectives.
The main point I wanted to convey through all of these was that we are gifted with the power of reason and use that to make better decisions rather than relying purely on emotions or our own ego and neglecting whatever is existing outside of it. We are living in the best times for implementing such a strategy into our life. These technologies, power, and the ability to have information with minimal cost and high speed just came recently and are actually a blessing until we chose ourselves to use them just for our own little egoistic satisfactions.
Never believe someone blindly just because they are an expert in a particular field and never reject someone just because they are not an expert in that field. Always here everyone, use your reason and form conclusions unbiased.
Now does it in any way mean that by using this strategy we will be right all the time? Never, there is every possible chance for us being wrong at any point in time but perspective-taking can increase the chances of us reaching the right conclusions much higher and reducing the divide and conflicts between us.
May all of us be able to form better conclusions and make better decisions.
Here is a brilliant documentary-style video by MagnatesMedia which speaks about this topic in more detail in case if you want to get more insight into the topic.
- Perspectives on Perspective Taking: How Children Think About the Minds of Others by S A J Birch, V Li, T Haddock, S E Ghrear, P Brosseau-Liard, A Baimel, M Whyte. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28215285/
- Egocentrism, Britannica article by Emily Pronin: https://www.britannica.com/science/egocentrism