Working with young adults on the autistic spectrum is tricky at times, especially if they do not have some ability to share thoughts with others. It is not always an easy point to make but it is a fact: Perspective taking improves relationships faster than any other skill or technique. Perspective taking, which most people develop naturally, allows us to think a thing and conceive of the ability of others to hold a different thought or, perhaps, even the same thought viewed from a different personal narrative.
Perspective Taking Done Badly…
If you want to see how difficult life without perspective can be, look no further than the current NFL vs Trump fracas. A single football player makes a symbolic gesture to demonstrate his deep concern over the deaths of young black men at the hands of police officers. What he doesn’t seem to consider is that his method of protest will alienate millions of people, effectively closing their ears to his point. The NFL, usually an iron fisted protector of athletic decorum and branding, chooses to neither fine nor punish the player’s actions. Now sprinkle a President who sees fit to call other men offensive names and give unwanted advice to team owners, some of whom actually counted themselves as political supporters. You have a circular firing squad of human emotion.
Here you have a trio of actors, all taking action without any consideration to validate anything but their own point of view or the possibility that a reasonable person might disagree. Someone needs to tell them all how perspective taking improves relationships…soon.
I am not going to endorse or condemn any of these individuals (at least not here). I only intend to point out the valuable role that being considerate of others serves in human interaction. At Advance, we work with young men and women to focus on the students’ understanding how perspective taking improves relationships and see how it will not only make the other person happier, but themselves as well.
Perspective Taking Improves Relationships Easily
Consider these pointers when helping a friend or family member who has social integration deficits to improve relationships through perspective taking…or the next time you talk politics:
- Ask yourself what is most important about this interaction. What is your goal? Do you need something or is it just to build relationship?
- Begin with the assumption that the other person has different values and experiences. Politely, acknowledging others’ individuality makes them more open to your different point of view.
- Validate other beliefs, even if you don’t currently agree. Peoples opinions change, not in quantum steps, but usually by degree. Give others the emotional room to concede or find common ground.
- Consider what could go wrong with your conversation or action. How could your lack of consideration obscure the point you feel is important to make?
- Realize that you want a long term relationship with others, not just a single victory.
Perspective taking, the ability to share thoughts and consider a person’s “otherness”, may be the most important skill we can teach our students, and it certainly won’t hurt you around the water cooler at work.
Perspective taking improves relationships!
Here is another great article on the topic from an expert, Michelle Garcia Winter