“We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” These words from author Steve Goodier speak to the value of being open to different perspectives. Often the richest learning and discoveries happen when people listen to the varied and unique perspectives of co-workers, fellow students, and other people they encounter. When you open yourself to new ideas, you expand your perspective and view of the world.
Benefits of Different Perspectives
To develop a complex understanding of an issue or idea, people often need to do more than simply take in facts. Usually, they need to seek out and consider other people’s positions as well. However, an individual’s own beliefs and perceptions can sometimes get in the way of them fully exploring other people’s perspectives. Sometimes, people simply assume that others perceive and evaluate the world the same way they do.
When individuals engage with the different perspectives of others at work and in school, however, they stand to make exciting discoveries.
Expand Your Thinking
Learning about the experiences of others can expand one’s thinking and scope of experience. Kathryn Funk shares an experience she had as an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) student at Maryville that illustrates this:
“I remember one of my groupmates worked at a dialysis center, and I really learned a lot about dialysis and how the whole system works. I had not been exposed to dialysis before. Another one of my group members did palliative care, and I had not really been exposed to palliative care or hospice before that. I came from a very niche background, and it opened up my eyes [to the fact] that there are other things out there.”
Making the effort to understand different perspectives also builds empathy. Empathy nurtures trust in relationships, in both people’s personal and professional lives. Through trust, people can build stronger teams and form closer bonds. Trust also allows leaders to connect with and influence those they manage.
Increase Inclusion and Equity
When people engage with different perspectives, they create more inclusive environments –– spaces where individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences feel welcome to express themselves authentically. Such environments cultivate equity because they give value to all perspectives. That provides everyone with the chance to fully participate, regardless of their differences.
Embracing different perspectives also gives people opportunities to counteract their biases. It exposes individuals to new information that can challenge their preconceived opinions and notions. This can help them recognize their biases and reconsider their current ways of thinking about groups of people and ideas.
Gaining perspective on topics, attitudes, and experiences previously unknown or unclear to us can spark creative transformations. Exposure to unfamiliar approaches and mindsets often leads to fresh understandings that fuel outside-the-box thinking and more innovative problem-solving. When people engage with different perspectives, they make room for intellectual openings that can embolden them to take creative risks and explore unconventional ways of doing things.
In workplaces and classrooms alike, this often separates leaders from followers.
Strategies for Gaining Perspective
Understanding different perspectives sometimes can be hard to do. It can require people to step out of the mental states or ways of thinking they feel most comfortable in. That takes real effort. However, a few key strategies can make the process easier.
Consider the following strategies for engaging with different perspectives in ways that can help nurture creativity, understanding, curiosity, and learning.
Listen with Sincere Interest
Active listening goes beyond just hearing the words that are spoken. It also involves putting forth effort to understand and engage with the meaning behind those words. Active listening allows people to open themselves to new ideas and not focus solely on their own points of view.
The following techniques can support listening that keeps individuals fully present in conversations and more receptive to different perspectives:
- Make good eye contact.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Paraphrase what’s been shared, to check your understanding.
- Pay attention to nonverbal communication.
- Pause your own internal dialogue.
Fight Confirmation Bias
Most people naturally seek out information that simply confirms what they already believe. Unfortunately, this habit often blocks individuals from encountering contrary opinions, new and missing evidence, and balanced assessments. People’s tendency toward confirmation bias can make it particularly challenging to discover new information and explore the perspectives of others.
However, individuals can overcome confirmation bias by employing the following techniques:
- Intentionally seek out differing opinions and perspectives.
- Approach all information with a neutral mindset.
- Search for evidence that disproves your existing beliefs.
- Use various information sources.
Suspend Judgment, Ask Questions Instead
Showing up to a situation full of judgment can prevent people from seeing what’s before them. To understand different perspectives, you need to put your judgments on hold and activate your curiosity instead.
Rather than quickly forming an opinion and shaping a mental narrative using limited information, take the time to gather facts. Ask questions that encourage those with varying viewpoints and experiences to share more. Then listen with curiosity and follow up with more questions directly related to what’s just been shared.
Approaching different perspectives nonjudgmentally and with curiosity makes it easy for others to share more openly. This gives everybody a chance to learn about each other and gain a more complete picture.
Why Perspective Is Important to Personal Growth
Exposure to different and fresh perspectives can activate the mind and push people toward new discoveries. In work and school in particular, exposure to diverse perspectives can create rich environments that nurture exciting and well-rounded discussions.
Brenda Escobar, a Maryville graduate student in data science, described the excitement she felt seeing her classmates from a range of backgrounds find unique ways to apply their learning across various industries. “Some are actuaries, some are in healthcare like me, and some are in other companies that I’ve never heard of. Just to get to understand how [my classmates] could utilize [the same information] … it’s one of my favorite things.”
Another quote on different perspectives that highlights the value of diversity in educational environments comes from Maryville undergraduate psychology student Roshana Smith. “I learned so much from my peers. Their ideas were very unique and different from what I would think. I was happy to be able to get to see their perspective on things.”
Escaping Our Echo Chambers
Staying inside echo chambers leaves none the wiser. Unfortunately, today’s digital media tends to create and perpetuate echo chambers that cut people off from perspectives unlike their own. Algorithms personalize content to please people and keep them engaged. The technology is not designed to challenge people’s thinking or opinions.
While encountering perspectives that challenge one’s beliefs and way of seeing things can create discomfort, these experiences are critical to personal growth. An absence of such experiences can impede people’s ability to develop and learn. Bearing these sometimes uncomfortable moments can lead to curiosity and the maturation of one’s intellect. Not only that, the discoveries made when we engage with new and different perspectives can be exciting, inspiring, and enlightening.
Nurture Creativity and Understanding by Engaging with Different Perspectives
Online degree programs provide rich environments for students to share their perspectives with one another and grow from the experience. The insights gained from exploring different perspectives not only nurture people’s personal growth, they also prepare them to succeed in their careers.
Discover the wide array of Maryville University’s online degree programs that provide students with rich learning experiences that can help them achieve their professional goals.
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Dandelion Training and Development, “The Importance of Gaining Different Perspectives”
Heinrich Böll Stiftung, “The Echo Chamber Effect”
Henry Ford Health, “Why It’s Important to Get Out of Your Echo Chamber — and How to Do It”
Indeed, “Quotes About Different Perspectives to Improve Your Outlook”
Insider, “How to Spot Confirmation Bias and Keep It from Fueling Snap Judgments and Limiting Your Worldview”
Schoox, “The Value of Embracing Different Perspectives at Work”
Verywell Mind, “How to Be Open-Minded and Why It Matters”