The other day I was on the train, trying to get some work done. A woman got on the train and sat a few rows ahead of me. I noticed her because she was playing music out loud on her phone.
A lot of people listen to music on the train, but they usually wear headphones, because not everyone likes to listen to the same kind of music. But this woman was playing her music loud enough for everyone to hear.
At first, I was annoyed and grumpy about the situation. But as I sat and reflected about it for a while, I realized that we all struggle to get outside of our own perspective (myself included). We are all stuck in our way of seeing the world.
I imagine the woman on the train wasn’t trying to disrupt my work on purpose. She probably just enjoyed her music and wanted to listen to it. Maybe she didn’t have headphones, or forgot them that day.
Here’s the thing that happens to all of us: We get stuck in our perspective, and fail to see the situation from the perspective of others. The woman on the train was seeing things from her perspective—she enjoyed listening to her music, it sounded good, so why would it be a problem to play her music out loud on the train?
It was difficult to see the perspective of others—that her music might disrupt the other people on the train. Or that different people have different music preferences. It’s difficult to see another perspective because it isn’t our reality.
I think the best way to get ‘un-stuck’ from our own perspective is to purposefully engage with people who are different from us. This purposeful engagement needs to be other-oriented. We need to engage with a humble perspective, open to the other person and their viewpoint. Our motivation needs to be in the right place—to listen and understand, rather than convert the person to share our viewpoint.
My example of music on the train was a minor issue. But I think the same principle applies on more serious matters like political disagreement, race relations, and religious tolerance.
Discussion: What is one area of life that you are stuck in your perspective? What is one step you could take to purposefully engage with someone who is different from you?