What to Spray on my Garden? Let’s Talk About Perspectives



Grass Field

By Akhil Suresh

Keeping her house and surroundings beautiful has always been Preeti’s most favourite thing to do. The courtyard in the front with its lush green grass lawn was the most favourite part of her house. But something about it was not letting her sleep for a long time. The grass lawn had started fading away! Both the thickness and greenness of the lawn were significantly diminishing by each sunrise.

Determined to restore her garden’s pristine beauty, Preeti visited a local garden shop in search of a solution. She approached Mr. Ramesh and asked for the highest quality solution for grass. Mr. Ramesh confidently assured her of the best possible results while handing over a homemade solution that he had developed over years of research and experimentation.

Expecting to restore the dark green beauty in her courtyard, Preeti sprayed the concoction all over the courtyard the same night. She couldn’t wait to see the results that Mr. Ramesh had promised her. Excited, she walked to the courtyard with her cup of morning coffee the very next day. But, the excitement soon changed to disappointment and then to anger- the solution had dried up the entire lawn in just a night. It did exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do!

Furious, she stormed back to Ramesh’s shop, her face red in anger. “Your magic medicine dried up my entire lawn. What product are you selling?” she yelled at Mr. Ramesh. “I am really happy our product worked for you, But ma’am, I don’t understand why you are angry.” the confused reply further infuriated Preeti. “Stop fooling around. I’m going to file a case against you” throwing the solution bottle into the shop, Preeti walked away. Ramesh stood there, perplexed at his customer’s weird reaction.

What just happened here is what happens quite frequently in a lot of our lives. Grass was an unwanted weed to all of Ramesh’s other customers. Unlike the solution Preeti was looking for which would have nourished her lawn back into its natural green beauty, Ramesh’s solution was the best weed killer in the town!

How perspectives shape our lives

Lived experiences are astonishingly different but more astonishing are the difference of perspectives that arise from it. A lot of misunderstandings and conflicts that we see around are just like the one faced by Preeti and Ramesh in this story. A good percentage of these can be eliminated or at least resolved effectively if there is a way to share and understand these differences in perspectives.

It is through the lens of the perspectives built through our lived experiences, values, cultural norms and ideals that we understand and interact with the world around us. Perspectives drive the process of meaning making, thought patterns, behaviours, relationships and goals among all other aspects of life.

In Stephen Covey’s words “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.” Each individual has their own view or idea of what is being dealt with. This tends to be highly influenced by their lived experiences, cultural norms, values etc. In any context, everything ranging from what is the problem to what is the solution and the ways to solve them would all be different for each individual. When dealing with a situation involving multiple parties, each of them brings out one part of a larger story that is being or has to be dealt with. Even the same part of the story can be interpreted differently based on where the individual stands. An ideal overview of the story is that which includes and is coherent to all these parts and interpretations.

Perspectives in the Dialogic Method

Navigating through different perspectives is a significant challenge in any interactions involving people with different lived realities. This is where the Dialogic Method intervenes providing a strategy to skim through these perspective differences to form an amalgamation of a final picture of actual reality.

At most times, an inner feeling that any step we take to acknowledge our limitations or a value of a different perspective leads to our loss, forces us to adamantly hold on to our perspectives whereas in reality, it is the acceptance of the limitations and biases of our understanding of a situation and the acknowledgement of the other perspectives that leads us to a reasonable understanding of a situation. The moment an individual decides to give up on his adamancy in a situation, their approach changes from defence to curiosity. The curiosity catalyses itself into understanding and then to collaboration. At the superficial level, this transformative approach is nothing but the simple acts of asking, listening and sharing information.

The antidote to the concoction sprayed on Preeti’s garden was resting on Ramesh’s shelf, waiting for either of them to ask the right question!

Why understand Perspectives?

A sad part of our lives is that we’ve become accustomed to questioning without listening and defending without sharing, that it has become necessary for us to learn how to ask the right questions and listen the right way.

But, it is not a very difficult thing to do, given the enormous benefits it brings along. The greatest discoveries often happen when people listen to the unique perspectives and stories of others they engage with. You develop a new overview of the world you live in, each time you listen to another person’s story. The world understands you better the moment you decide to share your story with it as well.  Be it in enriching personal relationships, making policies, building a group or resolving a conflict, it is the effort to share and understand perspectives that helps in the leap towards a healthy and sustainable transformation.

Let’s share and listen more to each other’s perspectives, because after all, we all live in them, as the reality is still not under the grasp of our limited instruments of perception!