One of the techniques I use in coaching is shifting perspective. We develop a point of view, and we reinforce it with beliefs and ideas. Pretty soon it’s not only the “right” way, but the “only” way. When a client gets stuck, it’s often a perspective issue. See if any of these sentences are ones you’ve said:
“That woman [man] hates me. I can’t do anything about it.”
“My boss [mother, mother-in-law, spouse, child, teacher] is out to get me. They are always criticizing me.”
“I can’t meet all your demands, it’s just too much.”
“I won’t ever be able to do that. I’m not up to it.”
All of those are perspectives. Your beliefs are certainly true for you at this moment. It’s your reality. But as my recent drawing classes have shown, if you move, even slightly, you will get a different view. And that viewpoint might shift your beliefs. If you see things differently, you can have a fresh look at them, maybe see something you didn’t see before.
Shifting your perspective is an exercise that asks the client to step into a different viewpoint. It’s not always easy, but it’s always enlightening. I’ll ask a client to pretend they are the other party, or to pretend they are in another part of their lives. Sometimes I even ask them to shift to a different position while they are talking to me. That is often enough to get them away from being stuck.
In the picture on the left, you can see an older house. You can see it has agaves growing in front of it, a grated door, and a typical desert front yard. You could draw all sorts of conclusions looking at the picture. If you are from the lush, green East, you could think the people are poor and have a dirt yard.
Now look at the photo below. The only change is that I took three steps backwards to take the photo. Exactly the same spot, just a different perspective. Now you can see the stucco and block fence that runs outside the house. You might think the person is closed off, maybe hates outsiders. You could add this to the idea that the person is poor, and you have a fairly unflattering picture of the owner.
Until you add the information that the house is in the desert Southwest, where almost every house is surrounded by a fence like this. Originally the fences kept out the wandering javelinas (wild pigs) that rooted up the gardens and attacked pets. Now, because most houses in this area are build close to each other to save resources, the fences provide boundaries and assure privacy. The landscape style suits the desert climate. It’s called xeriscaping, using only native desert plants and using sand and rocks as ground cover. Grass requires a lot of water, which isn’t plentiful in the Sonoran desert.
To get a different perspective, I often think of taking a photograph of my opinion, writing down a few viewpoints. Then I mentally turn, step back, or put a different light on it and take another mental picture. Voila! a new perspective. It doesn’t always result in an Aha! moment, but it does add important information to my decision making process.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She also develops and leads seminars on communicating better with office colleagues and friends. Image: Quinn took the photos. (c) 2008 All rights reserved.