Perspective-Taking: The Solution To Managing Workplace Relationships

Jul 22, 2016 1 Min Read


To be a true success, we must possess masterful people skills. The key to successful relationships lies solely in our ability to take the perspective of another.

Perspective-taking is that all-important skill of being able to look at things from someone’s point of view other than our own. Perspective-taking brings in the mindfulness of compassion and empathy to our relationships. When these two qualities are present in our interactions, mutual respect, success and movement forward are guaranteed.

1. Think of others

Whenever we are in the presence of another, it is natural to think about what they may be thinking (if we are not self-centred). We observe them instinctively and notice subtleties such as what they are doing, where they are looking, and what their body language is indicating. This helps us determine if we feel comfortable around them which helps us decide if we want to interact with them and how.

If we feel comfortable around another person, we begin to think more logically, like if now is a good time to talk to them, or if they seem unavailable or busy, we can decide which is the most effective way to proceed. All of this subtle information prompts us to speak up in the conversation or to decide to hold back for a more convenient time.

2. Have strong emotional regulation and empathy

Perspective-taking relies not only upon our ability to share emotions with others, but also upon our capacity to regulate our own emotions. To be effective with others, we must be aware of what might trigger us so we can quickly refocus ourselves on what is happening with the other. When it comes to empathy, the point is not to ask ourselves what we would do in any given situation, rather it’s to try and understand what another would do.

If our empathic accuracy and emotional regulation skills are strong, we will be more successful in our interactions. We possess the depth and awareness to predict the attitudes, expectations, and intentions of others that may be very different from our own.

This creates an interpersonal connectedness which is built to thrive and succeed because people feel heard, validated and understood on the other side of us.

3. Correctly reading other people

The emotions are our perspective-taking guides. They help us to read people. We naturally track the behaviours of others to try and determine what they are thinking, feeling, doing or planning. Our brains assist us by providing a social radar system which helps us determine people’s motives and intentions, even when our attention is not specifically on them.

In this way, our sensitivities are our strengths. These sensitivities to other people alert our gut instincts to the intentions of others and to sense any possible emotional changes in them or the peripheral work environment. It is important to trust what we intuit about the intentions of others because it helps us to gauge how we can most successfully show up in the interaction.

4. Interpreting words

Most people speak indirectly, which requires us to infer the actual meaning of what they are trying to say. This creates a lot of room for misinterpretation, especially through text or e-mail. We all know too well that what a person says is not always what that person actually means.

At the workplace, each person has to take into account every other person’s needs and ideas to figure out how to complement or add to the team effort, rather than to detract from it.

What we decide to say or not to say requires that we interpret as accurately as possible what the other person is trying to say. If we don’t understand or we cannot get a clear idea of where another person is coming from, it is important to create dialogue to gain clarification.

Most conflicts arise from a misinterpretation of what another is trying to communicate. Once communication is clear, trust is gained and success is inevitable.

5. Respecting differences

Workplace firestarters

We must remain open-minded and respectful to what others believe when relating to them.

Perspective-taking requires the maturity to gain knowledge and be respectful of another person’s personal beliefs. When we are disrespectful to another person and their belief system, it is the quickest path to creating separation and division between people. It is the surest way to upset a co-worker, vendor or boss.

It is important to remain highly attuned to the fact that not all people share our personal views and beliefs of the world. We must remain open-minded and respectful to what others believe in when relating to them.

This means knowing what not to say as much as knowing what to say. This makes communication complicated, but it keeps you open-minded and will enable you to grow in the process of being able to put yourself aside and be respectful of the other.

6. Get to know people

What you know about where people come from and how they came to be the people they are is critical in determining what to say and do. We interact very differently with co-workers who have had years of experience as compared to someone new in the industry. Our mind works like a compass directing us to find our way around and through information to keep communication moving forward efficiently.

Everyone’s brain is wired to be effective when communicating, which is why it is frustrating when we give too much or too little information to other people. People often make the mistake of expecting us to know them well enough to avoid communication mistakes.

However, no matter how well we know anyone, we are human. It is through these mistakes that we learn to find a balance in each individual relationship we have. Each mistake can only improve the success and integrity of our relationships while also benefiting our mindfulness and personal growth.

7. Analyse each person’s personality

It is easy to enjoy relating to all kinds of people. However, the way in which we relate to someone has a lot to do with how we perceive them to be as people. When we are around a co-worker who is more serious or intellectual, it calls for a different interaction approach from us than when we are interacting with someone who is more laidback and easy-going.

To some extent, we all become social chameleons, making slight shifts in our behaviour to fit the people and personalities around us in an effort to best relate to them. This social adaptation does not make us fake as much as it makes us well-rounded.

It allows us to use many parts of our personality to create positive and effective relationships. This kind of shifting is what makes us successful with other people and more whole and successful as individuals.

In a nutshell

The practice of perspective-taking brings compassion to the emotional climate of the workplace. It has the greatest potential to positively impact our ability to succeed through relating well to others.

When we think of compassion, it naturally helps us to modify our responses according to how we think others think, and to ensure a predictable emotional response from them. This does not mean we constantly seek to please others.

Clearly, our responses at times will cause disappointment or frustration; it simply means we seek to empathise with others as best as we can to ensure we create the most effective communication which will lead to successful relationships.

Success in life and business boils down to effective interactions, humility, self-awareness and the all-important skill of perspective-taking. These elements are the keys to success of any kind.

Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in California with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counselling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of ‘Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person.’ This article was first published on For more Consulting Corner articles, click here.

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