“Egocentrism, as put forth by Jean Piaget, refers to a young child’s inability to see things from another’s point of view or perspective. Unfortunately, some adults hang on to the characteristic.”
Many issues facing our school districts, communities, and society in general, are very complex. Each issue contains various layers, facets, and what seems like tangled webs of information. What I have noticed is that the lack of one key skill seems to stifle individuals, teams, and groups as they work towards solutions. That skill is the inability of people to see another’s point of view. People will view things only through their lens and perspective. Whether or not people are unable to, don’t want to, or refuse to, is really beside the point. What becomes very clear in the way they speak and act, is that they don’t. You have likely spoken with someone in that frame of mind and it’s very obvious they are not considering all the alternatives. They just continue to state their case, over and over, louder and louder. Therefore, problems that have been created either continue or worsen.
I talk with students about empathy on a daily basis. Sometimes the discussion is based on a behavior misdirection and other times it is applauding the actions of a student. Some students seem to naturally understand the concept while others need additional support to grow. I find it ironic that something I talk with 10 year old’s about on a daily basis is something many of us still struggle with as adults. It has hit me at times when I’ve been quick to judge. I haven’t always done a good enough job considering the background of others but judged them based simply on their actions. I haven’t really worked to understand their point of view, their outlook on the world, or how the hand they have been dealt impacts them on a daily basis. Did I always ask questions about the background of a person before jumping to conclusions/decisions? How well did I really seek to listen and understand the other side? I know that it is something that I can work on and improve.
Seek to Understand
My guess is that you have a personal issue, something happening in your school, or in your community that you have formed a strong opinion on. My intent is not to dissuade you from forming strong opinions. Not at all. Instead, if that opinion has placed you in some type of conflict, I’d encourage you to dig a bit deeper…especially if you want to be part of the solution. Before you move any further, I’d encourage you to stop and do these 4 things:
- Ask yourself if you truly have all of the information. Not just the information that backs your claim, but all of it. If you do not, reconsider how strong your position should be until you have gathered more.
- LISTEN to 2-3 people who have the exact opposite position that you have. Don’t talk, don’t share or try to counter each point, just listen. Your goal is not to debate, it’s to understand.
- Reflect on any information you gained from #1 and #2 and see if there are any adjustments you want to make to your position.
- Ask yourself if you want to be part of the solution.
Finally, if you want to be part of the solution and not just an egocentric complainer, then you must do something about it. If you choose to work towards a solution, do so actively. Engage people on both sides of the issue to go through the process listed above. Speak with individuals, groups, and with a mindset of working towards a solution. This will take strength and courage. Others are probably not going to be taking this path, so you will need to deal with comments and actions that deter you. If this is the path you do not choose, you will likely find yourself only being happy if decisions are made in your favor and miserable when they aren’t. And that my friends, is no way to go through life.