Seeing things from the other person's 'point of view' . . .

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Poppycocteau
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03 Jul 2010, 12:01 am

I have always been told that I should try to do this, and I do try to . . . but I don't think I even really understand the concept, and it seems an impossible task anyway, even without Autism. As I understand it, there is one option as far as trying to do this goes. When I try to do it, I literally imagine seeing out of the other person's eyes, as if I am wearing their appearance like a bodysuit, then I imagine walking around as that person, and I take into account all of the things I know that person to experience . . . and then assess how they might feel. That's easy. However, the problem is that it's only possible to assess how they might feel using my own being and personality - after all, it's the only one I have! For instance, if I can see that they are upset about something, then I can listen to and understand on a semantic level the words they use to verbalise their unhappiness, and I can listen to and understand (again, just semantically) what they say when explaining why this upsets them - and change my own behaviour accordingly . . . but I'm still no closer to knowing what it feels like to be them, or knowing what it feels like to be upset by the things they say they are upset by, because in the end I am myself, with my own brain, and because I am not upset by the same things as they are, I will never really know how it feels to be them or to be affected in the same way as they are. All that can be done is to listen to what they say, and then behave accordingly. It seems to me that all 'seeing something from another person's point of view' can ever be is trying to imagine how one would feel oneself in the same situation, and I can do that perfectly well. Unfortunately, it's not all that useful as I nearly always end up thinking "Well, if I were in your situation, I wouldn't be upset or angry . . . because I am me and it doesn't upset me. I can observe that it upsets you, but I still have no idea what the experience is like or what the thought processes feel like that led you to feel this way", and once again one is reduced to merely listening and behaving with the knowledge of how the person says they feel borne in mind. In short, we will only really ever be able to imagine being ourselves, because that's all our brain has to use as an example.

Isn't this all anyone could do, ASD or otherwise - unless they had a magical power of some kind? It's like some sort of strange existential conundrum, and for all the wrong reasons I become lost in thought whenever I try to imagine being someone else. :?


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Alcyon
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03 Jul 2010, 12:07 am

Poppycocteau, that should prompt a lucid, intelligent, probing thread. But all I can say is: "Exactly right!" Thank you for finding the words I can't.



League_Girl
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03 Jul 2010, 12:31 am

I always thought seeing things from another person's point of view is seeing what they are seeing. Like if they explain their point of view, you see it because they just told you.



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03 Jul 2010, 1:48 am

You're right, it's not an easy thing to do in general. I can only do it well with people I am really close to and have known for a while (because it's very likely we're similar enough to react to things in the same way).

I think it's one of those things that takes practice--a lot of practice. Maybe that's why I was drawn to study Psych and Crim J--learning about human nature in an academic setting.

Ever read about the "mirror neuron" theory of empathy? Take a look:

http://www.autismcoach.com/Mirror%20Neuron%20Theory.htm


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TheDoctor82
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03 Jul 2010, 2:55 am

I totally hear ya.



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03 Jul 2010, 3:03 am

I don't think seeing things from the others point of view is as important as validating their point of view. If someone says something they feel a certain way, I may not understand why. All I can do is agree that their feelings are as important to them as mine are to me. That does not mean I have to agree.


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Poppycocteau
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03 Jul 2010, 3:17 am

Quote:
I always thought seeing things from another person's point of view is seeing what they are seeing. Like if they explain their point of view, you see it because they just told you.


So you'd think, but I said something of this sort to my flat mate, who is NT, and apparently I'm wrong - it's somehow not the same!

Quote:
I don't think seeing things from the others point of view is as important as validating their point of view. If someone says something they feel a certain way, I may not understand why. All I can do is agree that their feelings are as important to them as mine are to me. That does not mean I have to agree.


I thought this - I kind of assumed that the views were equally important to the people holding them went without saying within the parameters of listening to them and finding out what they think . . . but again, according to my flatmate, it's not quite the same thing. Frustratingly, though, he can't articulate what the concept actually is that is different.

I'm beginning to think that there is actually no such concept as seeing something from another person's point of view. Perhaps it's as simple as either caring about that person enough to change your behaviour if you observe them being angry/upset or, if you don't care about them, pretending to care . . . In either case, it's silly to call it 'seeing things from another person's point of view' - it should be called 'seeing that person from ones own point of view and then altering to fit their wishes'.


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CockneyRebel
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03 Jul 2010, 3:54 am

I do that for my mum, and I wish that she could do that, for me, right now. :evil:


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03 Jul 2010, 4:33 am

I can imagine how another person might feel, but this is only based on feelings I myself have and info I've gathered from the situation. I don't think we can ever truly know another's thoughts.



Jaydee
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03 Jul 2010, 4:37 am

Poppycocteau wrote:
Quote:
I always thought seeing things from another person's point of view is seeing what they are seeing. Like if they explain their point of view, you see it because they just told you.


So you'd think, but I said something of this sort to my flat mate, who is NT, and apparently I'm wrong - it's somehow not the same!
Your flat mate is right - it's not the same. But seeing something from another person's point of view is a complex mechanism which is difficult to explain. I can try to explain it by the use of an example.
My aunt is treating me and my sister badly. She's jealous, angry, condescending and offensive. Therefore I keep my distance to her as well as I can. But, somehow, my feelings for my aunt are not wholly negative. And the reason for that is that I know some of her history, I know that life hasn't been easy for her, I know she has had a rotten self-esteem ever since she was a child, I know she has felt ignored by her parents, that she's struggled with these problems for years. So, even though I shake my head at her behaviour towards me, I can also see things from her point of view. I can see why she has difficulties treating others nicely, why she lashes out easily, why she's jealous. There is a reason behind her behaviour, even though it's poor. Needless to say, it's easy to see and understand the point of view of people we know, and more difficult with people we know less. Then the analysis may end up in mere speculation, but speculation is also good.

All of us do things for a reason, even though these reasons may be hard to see. We carry our history, our background, our childhoods, etc. with us, and they influence what we do and say, and how we perceive things. Seeing things from another person's point of view, is to take into account this fact and accept that a person's actions may be reasonable seen in light of their background. In the case of strangers, it entails letting a brief analysis of what might be the stranger's background and reasons run through your thought processes. What may be the reasons behind this behaviour, or behind these words? This analysis comes automatically when we are faced with behaviour we find difficult to understand; behaviour very different from our own takes more effort to analyse and understand. The funny thing is that this sounds like a lengthy process, but in cases of people who are good at seeing things from another person's point of view it is really done in the blink of an eye. :)



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03 Jul 2010, 5:22 am

I can't do it and I never have been able to do this.

VS



NearlyaHuman
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03 Jul 2010, 5:32 am

I think the term "being in another persons shoes" is a silly misleading term.
Because when you attempt to empathize like that, it turns into a never-ending intellectual mess, if you try and do it like that.
I think when NT people use this term, they mean they are identifying the other persons emotions, and then putting those emotions into a context they can understand.
I think trying to understand someone elses perspective is more like compassion, than empathy. I can understand the perspective of another person without intimately connecting with the associated emotions. It is an intellectual exercise of understanding.


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03 Jul 2010, 5:53 am

Seeing things from the other person's 'point of view' . . .

A couple examples come to mind, but I'm tired right now so I won't bore you parables.

Basically, it means consider the source.

At a deeper level it means Don't Judge a person till you have walked a mile in their shoes.
That does not mean try them on for size, it means to consider all manifestations and point's of origin of that person's point of view.

An upper-class person can imagine being homeless true, but it's not the same as living that way for a while. There are many things about it that they could Only imagine (and many they prefer not to), and probably not handle any of them as well as someone who has actually done it.

well i did anyway
ok..i'll sto



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03 Jul 2010, 6:03 am

I should leave now....this concept is so easy for me. I love playing devils advocate, figuring out what logical explanations people have for their beliefs and philosophical or any non-political debate in general so I have a need for this skill.


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03 Jul 2010, 6:39 am

Once I related something I said to someone else to a therapist. She asked me to listen while she said what I said back to me. It wasn't until then that I could see how what I said could be interpreted negatively. I think everyone is egocentric and "seeing from another's point of view" is just a rational acceptance that your own mind is not the only one to consider. I can't feel what others feel or think what other's think but I can certainly respect that they have their own perspective. I don't "get" my sister in law, but in order to do that I would have to have lived her life for her, because her perspective is a result of all her life's experiences and there's no way I can do that. I can speculate why she's a shopaholic for instance but there's no way I can totally understand it because I am not her and never will be.