On a recent weekend we were visiting relatives – this happens a lot in the summer – and we went to church with them. Sally sat through the service with us, because the church did not have Sunday school or even a nursery during the service. She did a pretty good job, for the most part, but like any young preschooler she was a bit antsy.
Toward the end of the service, Sally started to get especially wiggly. I picked her up and held her, shushing her and telling her to sit still.
Come on, Sally, I whispered loudly in her ear. Just sit still, stop wiggling!
After spending the service helping keep her still, I was feeling a bit annoyed, and I was starting to let it show. Then I realized something. I was thinking of my needs and seeing things from my perspective rather than considering Sally’s needs or perspective. I immediately realized how hard it must be being for Sally to stay still for so long, and that my slightly-annoyed whispers were surely not making it any easier. And so, with that new perspective, I started over.
Sally, I whispered, I know it must be really hard to sit still like this! You’ve been doing such a good job! Mommy’s so proud of you! The service is almost over, you only have to sit still a little bit longer, and I think you can do it, big girl!
And with that, Sally smiled and stilled. A few minutes later the service ended, and she hopped off my lap.
I think it’s important for me to be reminded every so often that when I work with Sally there are always two perspectives involved – mine and hers. If I think only of myself, I miss that this other little person has her own thoughts and feelings and her own perspective. And, if I try to see things from her perspective for a moment, that can change things completely.
But this isn’t just true of when I work with Sally. In any argument or situation with conflict, there are always two perspectives. It’s easy to forget that the other person is a person just like you and instead focus only on how you see things and the wrong the other person may have done you, but it’s a lot more productive if you stop to remember that the other person is just as much a person with hopes and dreams and feelings as you are, and that that other person has his or her own perspective as well.