February 26, 2015

Looking wiser at your situation by taking some distance

By looking at your problems from a distance, by taking a third person perspective, you may come to wiser judgments.

A powerful tool for making progress in many situations in the perspective-change technique. This tool enables you to look at your situation from a third person perspective. In progress-focused coaching we use this principle by asking perspective-change questions. An example of such a question is: "How would other people notice your situation will have improved?" In this article I describe evidence for the motivating effect of visualizing such a third person perspective. In this article I describe how you can use perspective changes to prepare for difficult conversations. A new publication demonstrates that it is easier to come to wise judgments when taking a third person perspective.

Igor Grossman and Ethan Kross (2014) conducted three interesting experiments. In the first experiment they asked some participants to imagine that their romantic partner had cheated on them and other participants that their best friend had been cheated on. Then, they asked all participants for their view on this situation by having them answer a series of questions. Their answers were judged on several dimensions of wisdom such as recognizing the limits of their knowledge and the importance of compromise and future change, and considering other people’s perspectives. The people who had looked at the situation from a third person perspective came to wiser judgments that the people who had look at it from their own perspective.

In two other experiments the researchers presented other participants the same situations. Some participants they asked to view the situation and answer questions about the situation from their own perspective while others were asked to view it from a third person perspective. In other words, the latter group was asked to self-distance. People who thought about the situation from a third person perspective came to wiser judgments. The third experiment showed that this beneficial effect of self-distancing was equally strong for different age groups.

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