by Sanjay Jain
Stephen R Covey: “To change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.”
I AM RIGHT, AND YOU ARE WRONG – does this sound familiar? Haven’t you felt or said this umpteen times. Hasn’t this lead to many arguments and fights because both sides felt they were right and the other person wrong. Did it ever strike you that both could be correct – have we missed something??
We all feel that we are right, and our understanding is perfect. We feel that there can be only one right way, and truth is universal. I also used to feel so, until I read and understood the principle of “Anekantvaad” in Jainism. It’s the theory of non-absolutism and doctrine of multifacetedness of reality. If literally translated, it means “many perspectives” of the same thing. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that there could be more than one right/truth for a thing, concept, or matter.
Most arguments happen because we fail to see things from the other person’s perspective. People argue that some things cannot have multiple perspectives – hence the argument on who or what is right or wrong. I am reminded of the story of 5 blind men and an elephant where each man felt the elephant and described it. One touched the ears and thought it is a fan, the other felt the trunk and thought it was a snake, the third touched the legs and said it was a tree trunk and so on… Neither one of them was wrong nor right – they all felt it from different perspectives or angles, and made their own inference.
Taking this argument forward, something as ghastly as murder can have a positive angle when someone is killed unintentionally or for self-defence. Hence even that cannot be universally considered to be wrong. I can go on and on giving examples to prove that there can be many correct perspectives for the same thing. However, I hope the point is already understood and appreciated.
Now what? We agree everything isn’t black or white – there are overlaps and shades of grey. We agree that there can be different correct perspectives and one doesn’t have to be wrong for another one to be right. We can have win-win situations and lose-lose situations. However, the moot point is how can this help us as human beings?
The biggest benefit we can derive by understanding and appreciating this concept is that we will avoid unnecessary arguments and disputes. We shall start appreciating others’ point of view and respect people. It is very important to place ourselves in the other person’s shoes to understand or see his/her perspective.
The other important benefit is that our horizon and thinking power increase, as we look out at problems, issues, and hindrances from multiple angles, which will help us find solutions much more easily. The additive and multiplicative approaches to life expand and they give an unmatched power of visualisation.
I strongly recommend you to ask yourself, is there another angle or perspective? Am I missing something important? Let me look at it from his/her angle? If I were in her shoes, would my conclusions be the same? However please do remember to take off your shoes, before putting yourself in the other person’s shoe.
By now some who have started thinking or activating their grey cells may be confused or finding it difficult to really have one absolute choice or answer or truth – they are just so many ifs and buts. Don’t worry. That’s life – just understand and appreciate the existence of multiple truths, routes, options, and perspectives.
Another simple example, which we all see and comment about – what is enjoyment and fun? Some love partying and being social, while others enjoy their solitude. There are a few others who love being in their own small group and so on. Everyone normally finds other’s way of enjoyment as weird and sometimes stupid. They feel listening to loud music stirs a headache while others feel that not partying is so boring and is a sign of being old. The biggest excitement of one can be a source of headache for another, and yet different people are happy doing different things.
Live with your beliefs and convictions but learn to respect and appreciate those of others. As we say, “Live and let live”. No one is weird or stupid; it is just that their perspective of life is different from yours!!!
The environment in which we exist plays an important role in conditioning us. Our understanding of issues and facts depends so much on the context. Rarely can anything survive in isolation or vacuum – not even fire has existence without air around it. Hence our understanding and acceptance of anything will depend on the environment in which we exist. This further multiplies the possible perspectives and truths.
I would like to conclude by saying – “ Suno aur samjo sabki, uske baad karo apni”
Sanjay Jain is Managing Director of TT Ltd, a public listed company. A double Gold medalist from IIM A, he has authored the book A Pinch of Salt: in the Recipe called Life. This article is an excerpt from his book. He has won various recognitions and awards including the ET Business Leader, Udyog Ratna, Asia Pacific Entrepreneur, World HR Congress CEO. He is mentor to Santa Clara University, USA & Bizness clinic. You can connect with him on Twitter at @TTsanjayjain