The Three Lenses

The Three Lenses | Perspective

As much as people extol the virtues the Golden Rule (“do unto others”), we do not always put it into action. In fact, almost everyone has encountered someone who made them feel unwelcome, undervalued, or generally unappreciated. It can be a challenge to co-exist with these difficult individuals.

But what actually went wrong? Is this difficult person out to get you? It is tempting to lay all the blame on the person who has slighted you. However, often holding resentment is just going to make you feel worse because you feel that you have no power or no control over how you are treated.

The truth is you are not powerless. You can take back control and turn most situations on their head just by shifting your perspective. Like adjusting a camera lens, shifting your perspective changes what you see. Viewing a particular experience through the three different “lenses” explained below can give you new insights into almost any the situation.

Lens I: The Reverse Lens

With the reverse lens, the goal is to turn your attention toward the other person and their situation. Put yourself in the difficult person’s shoes and build up your empathy.

Why would they have cause to feel that way? What has happened to contribute to their situation? It could be that someone else is making their life miserable, or they feel outside pressure that you are unaware of. Have you asked? You may find that you have some responsibility for the situation yourself you were unaware of.

Using the reverse lens helps you feel less victimized, simply by understanding someone else and their motivations. It can also reveal your own shortcomings and help you eliminate them. Finally, developing empathy for others puts you back in control of your own feelings.

Lens II: The Long Lens

Unfortunately, sometimes you will not find a reasonable justification for someone else’s actions, and no amount of understanding their perspective will help. The long lens perspective asks you to distance yourself from the situation.

Start by looking for the silver lining. How can you turn this into a positive experience that will strengthen you? Is this experience the nudge you need to make a change in your life or career? Sometimes what seems like a terrible event can actually be a catalyst for greater things, but it’s up to you to spot the opportunity and seize upon it. Distancing yourself from the event can help you clear your head and look for opportunities.

Lens 3: The Wide Lens

The final lens, the “wide” lens, is the lens of realistic optimism. There are two questions you must answer using this approach: “What do I know is happening here?” and “How am I interpreting those events?” In essence, the goal is to get down to just the simple, objective facts as quickly as possible. Then you must determine how you have told the story to yourself. What you have added that is more subjective than objective?

The idea of “realistic optimism” is to find the most positive alternate interpretation that is still based in fact. To do that, you need some objectivity, first and foremost. Once you’ve identified the essentials, you need to examine your own biases. Did you imagine being slighted by someone you don’t like? Are you holding a grudge against someone? How else can you view this situation? You can even ask yourself how you would react to the situation if you are to be at your absolute best.

You can’t always control your situation, but you can always control how you respond to it. The next time you run into a conflict, step back and take a look through one or all of these three lenses: the reverse lens, the long lens, and the realistic optimism lens. Examining the situation through these “lenses” can yield important insights and encourage you to shift your thinking.