This blog post originally appeared in ARTT's Trust Issues newsletter on September 1, 2023. Sign up for our email newsletter to get updates in your inbox twice a month.
Taking another person's perspective in political conversations can help reduce negative feelings toward members of the other political group, which can make ongoing discussion more productive. Researchers find that perspective-taking helps build empathy toward others with opposing views. This can ultimately facilitate more balanced conversations in online spaces, which are not so emotionally-driven.
In order to expand your perspective on a particular topic, you can try to deliberately step into someone else's (online) shoes by viewing their feeds. This can help build your ability to learn more about how another person thinks and sees issues. This novel information can help when you are engaging with those who hold opposing views. In your response, you can acknowledge their perspective.
In the ARTT Guide, we call this type of response "Take Perspective," and describe it this way:
Also phrased as perspective taking, this mode is the act of viewing a situation from the point of view of others. While empathizing involves sharing of others’ emotions, perspective taking is to help identify other’s intentions, needs, reactions, and behaviors.
EXAMPLE: In preparing for and during a discussion, imagine yourself in the shoes of the other person. Try to understand what the other is thinking. Try to visualize yourself on the other side of the table, in that role, thinking as the other.
GOALS: By doing this, people can identify another person's thoughts and points of view even though they may not agree with them, which may reduce impasses and decrease discrimination.
What do you think? How can we learn to take the perspective of someone else online? What are the difficulties involved, and what are strategies to help?
Let us know.