5 minute read.
I want to start this article by giving you three very simple instructions.
The purpose of these instructions is to demonstrate to you that perspective-taking is linked to power.
Why is this important? I will get to that in a little bit.
Instruction number one, identify your dominant hand.
Instruction number two, with your dominant hand, snap your fingers five times very quickly.
Instruction number three, with the forefinger of your dominant hand, the pointer finger of your dominant hand, on your forehead, draw for me, a capital E.
This is an experimental technique that social psychologists have used since the early 1980’s to measure what’s called Perspective Taking.
Perspective Taking is the ability to get out of your own head and see things from someone else’s point of view.
In the beginning, I asked you to snap your fingers five times quickly. What was that instruction about? Absolutely nothing. It’s just a distraction to get you in the mode of following directions.
What I was really after was this:
There are two different ways you can draw the letter E.
What are the 2 ways?
I can draw it like this “E”, so I can see it, from my perspective.
Or I can draw it like this “Ǝ”, so you can see it, from your perspective.
So, that’s the experiment. You get a group of people. Ask them what is their dominant hand. Make them snap their fingers. Then ask them to draw the letter E.
What do they do?
Do they take their own perspective? Or do they take someone else’s perspective?
More often than not, they draw the letter E from their own perspective.
If you drew the letter E from your own perspective, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. What really matters here is context.
In general, the more powerful people feel going into the experiment, the more their perspective taking abilities degrade.
But I have good news for you. All of you are about to become more powerful people today as a result of what you’ve learned.
Why is that?
Because if you drew the letter E from your own perspective to begin with, after learning this method and leaving here today, some of you will begin drawing the letter E differently.
You will begin to draw it from someone else’s perspective. Thus giving you a sense of true leadership by including others, and not just thinking about power from your own perspective.
Why is this so important?
If you gradually loose the ability to see the world through another’s eyes, all the experience and expertise you’ve accumulated in your life will melt into a puddle of unrealized potential.
But if you work to balance power and perspective taking, you’ll become a more effective leader because you’ll offer reasons beyond “just because I said so” for why anyone should follow you.
You will avoid what could be the biggest mistake that bosses, teachers, executives, government officials, and anyone else in a position of power can make.
The mistake is this. Thinking you’re the smartest person in the room and that no one else’s perspective matters.
That’s not power.
If you think you’re the smartest person in the room, you’ve just proved that you’re not. Believing that you’re the smartest person in the room never ends well. Trust me on this.
Remember the lesson of the letter E.
You have power.
We all have power.
There is nothing wrong with using your power to become a better leader.
But there is infinite power in sharpening your ability to see the perspective of others.
If you master this method, you will be using power in balance with perspective, for the right reasons and in the right context.
And with that, you will never go wrong.
As always, keep leaping forward my friends!
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