Not eye to eye, but side by side


Image: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Which do you see: a rabbit or a duck?

We meet people all the time who see things differently to us. Sometimes that is refreshing, but at other times it can be incredibly frustrating.

I have been discovering recently that you don’t have to see the world from exactly the same angle as the person walking through life next to you. In fact, we can use our different perspectives to shed greater light on particular situations and ideas, rather than as a reason to fall out. In all honesty, this is something I find very difficult when I don’t see eye to eye with someone.

I recently came across something called the Six Thinking Hats model developed by lateral thinker Edward de Bono. His theory basically assigns six different coloured hats to various ways of thinking, and shows how they can all work together. The blue hat manages the thinking process and makes sure all hats are covered. The green hat is all about creativity, ideas and possibilities. The yellow hat is optimistic and sees what works well, while the black hat stands for caution and asks what could go wrong. The white hat focuses on information and asks how things could work, and the red hat represents feelings and intuition. You can wear different hats in different situations, and change your hat as you think something through from various angles.

De Bono’s hats might all sound a bit fluffy and hypothetical, but I have found it useful in resolving conflict to pause for a minute to think about what hats people are wearing, and why that clashes with my hat’s colour. Acknowledging that I’m wearing my black hat when I’m being critical of a friend’s green ideas can lighten the mood, and demonstrates a degree of self-awareness, which can help us to work things through together. Reminding myself I wear my white hat most often helps me not to get too frustrated when my colleagues respond to an idea emotionally. It doesn’t need to become personal.

St Paul wrote this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” He’s acknowledging this can be tricky, but it’s still important. In any interaction, we have a choice of which role we play to try to reach a positive outcome. Understanding how other people see things and what matters to them is a huge part of how we relate to people and love each other well.

I’ve found it quite liberating to accept that a difference of approach does not necessarily mean someone is in the right and someone is in the wrong. Instead, it can actually open windows to begin to work together as we approach the challenges of life side by side.