While social media feeds can sometimes seem to be filled with everything from the laughable to the infuriating, they can also be a feeding ground for creativity. Who hasn’t seen photographs where a vacationer is standing taller than the Eiffel Tower, keeping the Leaning Tower of Pisa from tipping over, or stepping on Stone Henge? These optical illusions are examples of forced perspective photography. Forced perspective in the arts has been around for centuries. Francesco Broromini was a leading figure in the emergency of Baroque architecture in the 17th century and his spectacular example of forced perspective, a barrel-vaulted colonnade that looks much longer than it is, still stands in the Palazzo Spada in Rome.
Looking at these interesting images led me to consider how such a take on perspective might be translated in a way that benefits people at work. The adage “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” is a practice in this type of forced perspective – before you can judge someone, you must understand their experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc. The exercise is intended to generate empathy and understanding both of which are far more powerful than judgement.
If you wish to create a culture of trust in your organization, you must first be able to say, “I see you.” Before you can truly see someone, you have to do the work to get to know and really understand them.
Walk the mile. And if you still don’t understand someone else’s perspective? I encourage to walk the second. Understanding others does not mean losing yourself but – when approached with an open heart and an open mind – the path forward, paved with newfound mutual respect, is elevated indeed.