Perspective taking is the ability to look beyond your own point of view, so that you can consider how someone else may think or feel about something.
To do this successfully, you must have some understanding of others’ thoughts, feelings, motivations, and intentions. You must also have some background information about the other person or be able to make some smart guesses about their background and or how they experience the world.
For example; If you are a child speaking to another child, you may easily talk about lots of details in the latest video game…
but… if you are a child talking to an adult, it is helpful to realize that most adults don’t play a lot of video games and they may not be interested in this topic or be able to follow along with what you are saying.
The 4 Parts To Successful Perspective Taking
- Set aside your thoughts, feelings, motivations & intentions, momentarily
- Consider others’ thoughts, feelings, motivations & intentions
- Determine whether or not your behavior should change based on that information
- Make any necessary changes
Good perspective takers continually monitor these 4 steps and reassess their interpretation of others. Most of us develop perspective taking skills as children through natural development, without giving it much conscious thought. But for some children, these skills need to be explicitly taught.
What might happen if children are unable to take the perspectives of others? Do you have any acquaintances that you would describe as “inconsiderate”? How about “self-centered”? Most likely you think of those people that way because they are not good at perspective-taking.
To be thought of as a considerate person, we must consider other peoples’ perspectives before we act or speak. When we don’t consider how our actions will make others feel, we end up seeming rude, inconsiderate, and self-centered.
Children that lack good perspective taking skills are often considered inconsiderate and rude by their peers. These children tend to do what is in their own best interest and disregard what is best for the group or anyone else they are with.
When children have trouble with perspective taking, they usually have difficulty making or maintaining friendships, being on teams, or being a member of a school group.
Positive Results of Improving Students Perspective Taking Skills
Students who improve their perspective taking are better able to:
- interpret the needs and wants(motivation) of others
- demonstrate consideration and empathy toward others
- safely navigate around people who may have ill intentions
- adjust their behavior so that others’ feel comfortable
- interpret assignments at school (especially reading and writing assignments) by understanding the perspective of the characters studied or the person who will be reading their writing
- share in the happiness of others even without sharing the same level of interest in the topic, purely because they like the other person
- think critically about social situations and relationships and engage in personal problem solving
Perspective taking is an essential skill children need to interpret “why” and “how” situations happen and then respond appropriately to that information.
Strategies To Teach Perspective Taking
Helpful strategies for taking another’s perspective include:
- imagining yourself having the same experience as another person
- using your own similar past experience to understand another’s situation
- applying general knowledge (e.g., stereotypes) about how people are likely to react in particular situations
So how do we teach children to take others’ perspectives and improve their perspective taking abilities?
- Model The Skill/Behavior
Practicing what you preach can be harder than it seems, but demonstrating perspective taking skills, in real time with your students, is good for you and them.
It is easier to be fair and just, if we take the time to see how a situation looks from someone else’s point of view.
Young children learn much by watching you, so when you show them the value of perspective taking, they will be more likely to engage in it too.
- Talk about challenging feelings
Talk about all feelings with your students, not just the positive emotions, and teach your students that all feelings are valid.
Acknowledge and respect your students feelings. Children will be better able to understand others’ perspectives when they feel their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are understood and respected.
- Demonstrate Understanding
Show your student’s that you understand their perspective by repeating back to them what you hear them saying or describing to them what you think they may be thinking or feeling, wanting or intending.
- Respecting Different Opinions vs. Agreeing
Remember that understanding someone else’s perspective does not necessarily mean that you agree with them, it is however, an acknowledgement of how they are thinking, feeling, what they want or need.
- Show Them The Other Side
For example, when you see someone help someone else, talk to your students about what each person might be feeling or thinking. Help them build connections between people’s actions and their motivations.
It’s also important to help children understand how their behaviors affect other people.
If your student throws a toy and it hits another child, help your student build that cause-and-effect connection by talking about how their actions impact other people or their environment.
- Be A Detective
Just like real-life detectives search for clues to solve a crime, people who are skilled at perspective taking look for clues to understand other people. Help your students develop these skills by encouraging them to observe and evaluate other people’s actions or behaviors.
- Encourage Community
Children learn to value and respect others through the building of community, developing relationships and a sense of belonging.
Encourage your students not only to engage with others but to work together, collaborate, problem solve and truly value their relationships with others.
This mutual respect and sense of community will encourage your students to think about others’ points of view.
Perspective taking is an extremely important social skill. I hope you found some helpful ideas for how and why to teach your students to improve their perspective taking skills.
Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!
Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids