Monday, May 24, 2021

Want new insight? Use this perspective exercise

We tend to be awesome at advising friends, but when it comes to giving ourselves good advice, it can be a different story. This is because we tend not to see our own situation clearly.

We find it hard to advise ourselves for many reasons, including:
"    Our self-image, "I should be XYZ" gets in the way
"    Our inner fears sabotage us
"    We can't analyse other people's behaviour clearly because we our feelings about them get in the way

A perspective exercise helps you step away and gain a fresh perspective. This is how it works.

Suppose Rachel has a problem that goes like this. "I am in a relationship with John, and we've been dating for three months. We're exclusive and we're getting along really well. He's hot and sweet and sexy and I think he is The Real Thing. So, he disappears from time to time. I thought he was at the library, studying, but then I walked past Starbucks and there he was WITH HIS EX!!! My heart just died. I had no idea he was still seeing her."

Step 1: Tell your story, but tell it as if it's happening to other people.

Pro tip #1: it helps to switch genders around so you get rid of gender stereotyping issues
Pro tip #2: make up names of people you don't know, so you see them as strangers

"Fred is in a relationship with Julie. They have been dating for three months. They're exclusive. One day Fred thinks Julie is at the library but when he walks past Starbucks, he sees Julie having coffee with her ex. This surprises him as he didn't realise Julie was still in touch with him."

Step 2: examine the story and identify the underlying issue. "Fred is surprised because Julie is talking to her ex. It may be because he feels his partner hid information. And he may also be jealous or insecure."

Step 3: give good advice to the people in the story.
Pro tip #3: It helps to do this in bullet points
"    You fear she is hiding information from you but you are jumping to conclusions: she may have just bumped into him
"    Why do you feel unsettled by her seeing her ex for a coffee? What exactly are you worried about?
"    Also, how do you feel about exes in general? Note: people have the right to friendships, and that includes friendships with exes.
"    Fred should talk openly to Julie about the issue.  Then they need to work out how to communicate better

Step 4: now examine your issue again and see if the advice you gave applies to yourself.

Of course, this looks much easier than it is. It can be quite hard to tell your story as if it's happening to other people - and you have to be super good about not framing the story so that you give yourself the advice you secretly want to follow ??

But on the whole, I find this a super useful exercise and it gets easier as you practice. So have a go and let me know what you think