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How to Change Your Perspective🧠to Gain Better Understanding

When is a hot dog better than a filet mignon? 

I can hear most of you shouting “Never!” at the screen. How can the buttery flavors of a filet mignon really compare to processed meat on a bun?

I’m talking juicy sweetness that erupts with each perfectly cooked bite. The way the tender meat melts as you chew. The subtle symphony of flavors serenading every taste bud. 

That experience is unquestionably better, right? If you disagree, add Sparks Steak House here in New York City to your bucket list. 

I’ll meet you there. I’m suddenly craving a ribeye. 

Steak from Sparks Steak House in NYC

However, there’s one good reason why a hot dog might rival a filet mignon. 

Picture this… 

You’re at a baseball game. A crisp wind cools the warmth of the sunshine. Your favorite team is up to bat, and right on cue, your dad launches into a detailed analysis of the first batter in the lineup. 

Most of what he says goes over your six-year-old head. But Dad hands you a fresh hot dog — with all your favorite toppings — as he patiently answers your questions. 

As you finish the last bite, there’s a sharp crack, and the stadium erupts to their feet. Dad lifts you to his shoulders, and you watch the tiny white ball soar into the stands.

The memory of that hot dog will remain undeniably delicious. 

Especially if you chewed yesterday’s filet mignon with a clenched jaw while deciding how to tell your least-favorite colleague that their joke was more offensive than funny.

Change your perspective, and the experience changes too. 

Most people aren’t aware of how perspective influences their understanding. They aren’t mindful that perspective ISN’T a fixed, unmovable point. 

You can change it. 

Those of us who are driven by curiosity need this skill: the ability to change your perspective in order to broaden your understanding. 

You might know your best friend his whole life and never understand why he loves hot dogs better than steak. 

That is until you listen to the story of his first Yankees game — and how much that memory means to him now that his dad is gone. 

The first step in changing your perspective is to actively listen to people who think differently than you. 

That includes everyone. And active listening is a challenging skill to learn.  

I was co-hosting a virtual show in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death where my two co-hosts had very different political views: one from the left and one from the right. As a host, I made a point to listen carefully to both sides. 

Eventually, I had to interject: “You’re almost saying the exact same thing, but you’re coming at it from different perspectives.”

It happens more than we think. Everyone looks at a circle from different sides, but it’s still just a circle. 

A square, triangle, and circle repositioning to change perspective of the current image

We come to every conversation with preconceived notions, understood from our own perspective. 

Often, people are trying to protect their self-interest, so they’re not listening to understand the person across the table. They’re listening to respond or to argue back. 

You’re creating a filter that’s blocking true understanding. You’re blocking your ability to change your perspective.

When you’re open to different perspectives, you’re open to taking in the information. Unless we can put our perspective aside, we can’t take in ANY information from someone else. 

That’s unfortunate. Being open to a different perspective creates an ability to learn. The more you listen and you learn, the more freedom you gain to tackle new challenges in the future.

If you’re uncomfortable with putting your own views aside to consider someone else’s perspective, think of it as a suspension of disbelief

When you go to see Lion King on Broadway, you’re aware that the actors aren’t actually monkeys or zebras or lions. You’re aware these animals are only costumed performers. 

However, as those opening scenes unfold on stage, a part of your mind decides, “OK, I’m on board with this.” 

You want to experience the story from the character’s perspective, so you allow yourself to suspend disbelief and go with it. Your actual position on the existence of an incredibly wise, “crazy” baboon (actually a mandrill, but that’s another conversation) hasn’t changed.  

Rafiki from The Lion King

Suspending your own perspective — for at least the duration of someone’s story — gives you a new way of experiencing the world.

So how do you actively listen enough to change your perspective? It’s not enough to hear the words with your ears. 

Active listening requires that you listen to your own intuition. 

The speaker could be saying these words that sound nice, but everything about their body language is saying something different. The way they position their arms is closed off and arouses suspicion or danger.

I also think it’s important to “listen” to the energy happening in the room. Again, this isn’t something you perceive with your ears. 

I equate it to how a deaf person “listens” to music. They’re listening with their body to the vibrations. They can feel when the bass drops, when the melody changes, and how the tempo creates a new tone. 

Listen to a new perspective with your whole body. 

Changing your perspective isn’t limited to people. It can be applied to your environment and your situation. 

Think how different your view is from behind a microscope versus looking through a telescope. Scientists need both to learn about the world around us. 

Being able to shift back and forth from this targeted lens to this wider lens gives us more information and more insight. 

In The Art of Negotiation, Michael Wheeler talks about how the best negotiators are masters at this mental gear shift, “switching back and forth from the micro-moments in an exchange to the macro-perspective about how the overall process is progressing.”

If you only live life through the telescope or the microscope, you’re going to miss a lot of views of the world. 

Finally, a shift in perspective allows us to perceive our world differently. People talk about looking through rose-colored glasses, and it’s true. 

A problem from a different angle can turn into a solution. It all depends on how you look at it. 

That isn’t to say that it’s as easy as putting on a new pair of Ray-Bans. Keeping a positive perspective is a constant effort. 

Every day, the hustle is real.

There is an abundance of brilliant light in what often appears to be an abyss of darkness, but it depends on our perspective and our choice.

Now it’s your turn to reflect. How easy is it for you to adopt a new perspective? How well do you listen to the perspective of others? 

What color are the lenses you’re wearing every day? How can you reframe your perspective to start seeing problems as solutions? 

Once again, perspective isn’t a fixed, unmovable point. You can change your perspective.

Let your curiosity for new perspectives motivate your exploration of the world. 

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About Aaron

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Aaron Smalls is a keynote speaker, host, DJ and actor. He partners with some of the biggest brands around the world.

Over the course of his entertainment career, he has learned to channel his strong sense-of-self and natural charisma to succeed in an industry where there’s unlimited uncertainty. 

As a keynote speaker, he teaches public speaking and communication, personal branding and reconnecting with our youthful energy. This allows his audiences to differentiate themselves, increase their value and strengthen their relationships. 

And that is what Aaron refers to as discovering and owning your Charismatic Advantage.™

How to Change Your Perspective🧠to Gain Better Understanding