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Index to 50 Rules of Life

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50 RULES OF LIFE
Rule 18: Perspective--
Choose to See the Whole Elephant

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
partial picture of elephant "Perspective: Choose to see the whole elephant"
The inability to change perspective is a frequent cause of conflict. People become so focused on the rightness of their view of the world that they cannot see the value of other views. Yet, most people are often just looking at a narrow slice of a very complex picture.

Perspective is shaped by our expectations and the details we notice. Learning to let go of expectations can help expand our knowledge of the world and our ability to understand others. By doing so, we become more open to ideas and differences which is likely to reduce conflict.

A fable from India illustrates how perspective can be accurate, but inaccurate, at the same time depending upon the specifics observed. The following poem by American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) is based upon the fable:
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
Thus, if you base your conclusions solely on your previous experience and limited vision, you may miss the full understanding of the elephant. Expanding your perspective to consider other points of view and the full context of the situation can reward you not only with less conflict and better relationships, but potentially, with opportunities you might have missed.

Choose to see the whole elephant by listening and being open to other perspectives and viewpoints.



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Dr. Monica Frank



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