Nautilus

Taking Another Person’s Perspective Doesn’t Help You Understand Them

To understand someone, we should not imagine their point of view but make the effort to “get” their perspective.Pixabay / Public Domain

No moral advice is perfectly sound. The Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do unto you—is only as wise as the person following it.

A more modern-sounding tip—take the perspective of others—can seem like an improvement. It was Dale Carnegie’s (it is “a formula that will work wonders for you”), and Barack Obama trotted it out at the United Nations when discussing Israel and Palestine (“the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in each other’s shoes”). Perspective-taking avoids the Golden Rule’s flaw—its effect doesn’t hinge on the integrity of the person considering it. And it’s an inducement to selflessness, in that you’re encouraged to exchange your frame of reference for that of another. Perspective-taking increases the odds you’ll with the person whose shoes you’re stepping into, on your own biases and , and automatic expressions of racial bias.

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