Have you ever noticed how some people can completely erase your desire to have a discussion with them? David Gurteen recently drew my attention to Nancy Dixon’s blog post about the negative impact of speaking with conviction. In this post I’ll review the pros and cons of considering many perspectives versus limiting yourself to a single point of view.In all the heaps and piles of information before you, what is valuable depends on your purpose.
Professional knowledge lends purpose to your actions
Anyone who has a very specific purpose for the information (or objects) available to them will use their perspective to sieve the gold from the dirt:
- As an information specialist – and in a number of other professions – you analyze and filter information according to what other people need at a particular time. Going in with a strictly utilitarian viewpoint, narrowed down to one specific purpose, combined with (re)search skills, means you’ll end up with the right set of information sooner rather than later.
- As an archivist, you put together archives – structures – that will serve the needs of the team, department, or organization. There’s limited room for your own preferences – and that’s fine. You’re not supposed to keep every file you like.
Different perspectives urge different actions. If your perspective is “anything can be useful, depending on what you’re looking for” you don’t see gold or dirt, but copper, iron, gold, and lots of other stuff that could be useful to someone. Although at this point the word ‘hoarding’ comes to mind.
Professional knowledge and different perspectives in conversations
In conversations, taking one perspective and pushing it to the exclusion of every other point of view means you effectively kill the conversation. That seems convenient, but people may stop trying to change your opinion and focus on implementing their ideas without your valuable input.
- If you want to keep your conversations going – and the exchange of professional knowledge with it – taking a leaf from the ‘many perspectives’ book may be just what you need.
- On the other hand, if you’re reasonable to a fault, self-proclaimed holders of strong opinions may think you lack a personal own point of view.
Aiming for balance is probably your best bet.
The limits of your knowledge
It’s relatively easy to become an expert and out-know everybody else. The true art lies in letting go of your preferred point of view and trying a different perspective. Doing so makes you realize that there is always room for a smidgen of doubt.
- Your reasoning may be faulty.
- The information you have is incomplete, therefore your knowledge is likely to be flawed in some part.
- The mere fact that you’re better informed than the others doesn’t mean you’re also right.
Trying to convince people to trade the opinion they’ve voiced for yours may not work. Pointing out that the object they see looks different from another angle may be all you can do.
We’re all walking the tightrope of knowledge over the chasm of inadequate information. Meet you halfway?