Exercise – Rotating perspectives

(takes about 20 minutes)

This problem attempts to help you give advice or criticism better and in a way that it is more likely to be received positively. Try to think of advice you have tried to give someone very recently, or are planning to give someone in the very near future. This might be personal advice that you are trying to give to a friend, partner or family-member. It might also be professional advice that you are giving to a colleague or client.

This exercise will probably work better if you write each of the three “perspectives” from a different place (e.g. a different chair around a table or a different place in the room). A change in visual perspective can have an analogous psychological effect on us.

The exercise

Position 1 (5 minutes) – My perspective: Write from the perspective of yourself as the advice-giver. Imagine your advice-receiving sitting opposite you. Describe them physically and in terms of their personality. What might they be thinking about at this moment? What are their main preoccupations? Then think about your advice. What is it about? What do you want to achieve? What is most important to you about the advice you are going to give?

Position 2 (5 minutes) – The other: Now go sit in the position where you imagined your counterpart. Describe the person sitting in position 1. What is their attitude and posture? What are they giving you advice on? What do you want and expect from them? What do you already know about the subject that they’re talking about? What are your main interests or concerns? What annoys you in the person in position 1? What would it take to convince you to take their advice? What are the risks for you if the advice is wrong?

Position 3 (5 minutes) – The neutral observer: Now change position again. Look at the other two people. Listen to the advice of the person in position 1. What strikes you about it and about the person speaking? How does the person in position 2 react? Having watched the conversation, what advice would you give to the person in position 1?

Position 1 (3 minutes) – Return to the first position. What did you learn from this process? What might you now do differently?

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