"Events don't cause stress. What causes stress are the views you take of events." - Epictetus
The Bass River Beach in Yarmouth, Massachusetts has become one of my new favorite places. A short distance from my house, it’s a peaceful spot any time of year. The island of Martha’s Vineyard is only a few miles away, and acts as a buffer to the currents of the Atlantic Ocean. The silt from the river extends the beach and the shallow water. Even at high tide, the biggest waves are from the boats speeding by the shore.
Only 6 miles away is Inman Beach in Dennis. Due to quirks in geology and geography, this beach receives higher winds and larger waves. The marginal change in the angle to the island plus a slightly steeper slope in the beach allows the current to hit the shore with more force.
Just a few miles. Less than 0.02% of the earth’s circumference. A minuscule difference. That slight change has significant difference on what you experience.
As I was staring at the water, trying to determine all the elements that caused the changes in the waves, a business problem crept into my thoughts. An issue had been bothering me for days. The seriousness of the predicament and my lack of creating a solution combined to frustrate me. One reason for going down to the beach was to find some peace of mind.
Had I also found a solution to the problem?
I had been looking at the issue from my point of view. How the difficulty affected me. What my emotions were. What course of action would make me feel better.
I tried to imagine the other person’s perspective. Why had they taken certain actions? What past experiences led to their choices? What would lead to a solution that would benefit everyone impacted?
In the clarity of the moment, I saw the answer. While the issue was still serious, the answer was relatively simple – more communication and a better checklist (never a surprise for my Berkshire Company clients). Problem solved, I resumed enjoying the summer day.
Every challenge that involves more than one person has more than one point of view. This is true even when people have the same objective with the same intent. As individuals, we carry with us a lifetime of experiences that brought us to this point. Those experiences impact the choices we make today.
The other person’s decision is based on a different background. A distinctive set of paths have led them to the current situation. Their choice may seem like a logical response to a specific incident.
Of course, that’s never our first thought. With few exceptions, we think of ourselves first. The impact on us – physically, financially and emotionally. Our ego reassures us that we’re right (even when we’re wrong) and we don’t understand why the other person doesn’t recognize the obvious.
Taking the time to consider the other person’s point of view gives us new insight. We may think of novel approaches and innovative solutions to the problem. Different angles reveal different tactics to resolving the issue. We may even see our own errors. And yes, it’s possible that we still conclude that we were right all along.