There is a parable that became a poem that is one of the greatest examples of perspective you could ever find. Buddhist texts contain the earliest versions of the story and American poet, John Godfrey Saxe, wrote a version that gained a lot of traction in the mid-19th century.
It is a story of seven blind men who are all touching different parts of an elephant. One approaches and touches the elephant’s side, one touches the tusk, another the trunk, the ear, the tail… And so on. Each of their opinions are completely different about what an elephant looks and feels like. Of course… They all have only touched a piece of it and none of them can actually see it.
The point of the parable is to illustrate how we all come at things from a different and unique perspective. While none of the blind men are wrong… None are entirely right. We can all only understand a piece of something from where we are standing. If two people have the same experience, the subjective interpretations of that experience will most likely be different from each other.
If I am 10 years older than my sister and we grew up in a house filled with trauma, our perspectives will be entirely different because we can only see the trauma from where we are or were standing. One of us may be fury-personified as a result and the other may be a sunflower always beaming.
If two people want to sell their homes in a market that is not as strong as it was 3 years ago, their experience will be entirely different based on when they bought it and how much mortgage they carry and whether or not it is on a main street in the centre of town or in a blissful cul-de-sac in Lawrence Park.
If you ask two different agents what their process will be to sell your house, you may find one who has spent her whole career touching the tail and another who has spent the last two years holding the kneecap. They will have different perspectives and do things differently and neither will be wrong, but both will have partial ideas that they adapt to fit the whole picture. I tell all of my selling clients to make sure that they speak to a few agents so they can find the one who works best with their perspective of how things work for them.
This is the last part of John Godfrey Saxe’s poem:
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!
So oft in theologic wars The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!
So, of course, we have to be careful that we are not deluded into thinking we know it all. Sometimes we have pieces of a bigger reality and, in fact, so does someone else in your circle. We have to share knowledge to gain a bigger perspective… More of the whole… Wider understanding. Everybody is right.
Imagine if we took that view when we sat chatting at a dinner party or online when we waxed poetic on someone’s rant?
What if I had a buyer and told him that I thought it was a great time to buy right now, but he had a brother who had lost everything in a bitter divorce, who told him to hold tight to his money as he may need quick cash in the foreseeable future? We would both be right and we both hold our own perspective of this same moment in time.
Bearing all this in mind…
Be kind in an argument.
Be realistic in your advice.
Be careful that you aren’t too adamant or ragey.
Be honest and speak what you see…
We are all just blind men grasping a piece of an elephant.