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Putting Things in Perspective

InTouch - Newsletter - #73

Welcome to the seventy-third edition of “In-Touch”. As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please let me know what you think by clicking here.

Story of the Week: "Putting Things in Perspective"

Two weeks ago, I conducted an exercise for Coca-Cola HBC, which involved stepping on each and every one of 50 numbered plates laid out on the floor. To complete the exercise in style, the participants had to do it in numerical order. The vast majority were confused by plates 6 and 9: team-mates standing opposite each other thought that 6 was 9 and 9 was 6. Of course, they were both right, depending on where they were standing. This was a perfect example of perception at work!

In one of his videos, former covert CIA intelligence officer Andrew Bustamante challenges the age-old mantra that 'perception is reality' and insists that the key to understanding people and situations is not perception but perspective.

He argues that perception is unique to each person and that behind most arguments – whether major or minor – lies one person’s attempt to convince another that the other’s perception is wrong. In fact, he says, good communication is all about being able to move from perception to perspective. So, what’s the difference?

Perception is the way we regard, understand or interpret something, based on our own experience. Our perceptions are personal but they may or may not be reality. Hence the confusion between the number 6 and the number 9 when the Coca-Cola HBC participants were trying to complete their exercise.

Perspective, on the other hand, is the art of seeing the world from outside our own reality. It involves stepping into the shoes of others and understanding how they see and feel about things. The need to ‘put things in perspective’ cannot be overstated in today’s world of division and conflict. Different perceptions have caused neighbouring nations to resort to violence as they dispute territory, narrative and history: Israel/Palestine, Russia/Ukraine, India/Pakistan…the list is far too long. Could a shift to perspective allow political leaders to find peace? I believe so.

Physical and ideological divisions have left my country, Cyprus, divided for almost half a century – the fighting may have stopped but rifts remain – and each time the politicians come to the negotiating table to resolve the longstanding issue, they bring their own perceptions with them. What would happen if, instead, they were to engage in a shift of perspective?

As another well-known saying goes, ‘perception is reality until proven otherwise’ and the way to see if something is reality or not is to put it in perspective. When we succeed in seeing things from someone else’s perspective and they manage to see things from ours, every problem will surely come closer to being resolved. Sometimes all we need is a new perspective.

Words of Wisdom

“The reality of life is that your perceptions – right or wrong – influence everything else you do. When you get a proper perspective of your perceptions, you may be surprised how many other things fall into place.” Roger Birkman

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“Has a change of perspective helped you to resolve a problem?”