For anyone who wants to understand the mind of another person, the answer seems obvious: do your best to deliberately try to see things from the other person’s point of view, imagining that you were in his or her shoes. That is what we call doing some perspective-taking.
Social psychological research has demonstrated many benefits of such perspective — increased altruism, decreased stereotyping, and a stronger social bond with another person.
But a recent study, conducted by a group of behavioural researchers, has found that those who were asked to engage in perspective-taking were actually slightly less accurate in their judgments than those given no specific instructions.
If perspective-taking doesn’t help, what can you do to better understand others?
The research indicates that you gain understanding about someone only when you acquire new information from them. If you want to know what another person thinks about an issue, the best strategy is simply asking them. In short, instead of perspective-taking, you need to do some perspective-getting.
So next time you want to understand what’s inside another person’s mind, get their perspective, don’t take it!
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We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: www.bcw-sport.com