Flexible Perspective Taking: Relationships Psychology

A hallmark of psychological health is the ability to think flexibly. When people get depressed, are highly anxious, or are feeling high levels of negative emotions for other reasons (such as relationship unhappiness), their thinking tends to get more negative, narrow and rigid.

It’s good to practice seeing issues from multiple perspectives to get a wider angle view on the situation/issue. However since we are generally stuck inside our own perspective its helpful to have a structure to help do this.

Here’s a thought experiment I like from a therapy called Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT).

Pick a recent incident that was a source of relationship unhappiness. Ideally choose an incident that reflects one of your relationship’s “gridlock problems” (“gridlock problems” are the kind that repeat and never seem to get solved).

Write down the story you would tell about the incident.
Next, write down the story your partner would tell about it.
Third, write down the story an external observer might tell about it.

After you’ve done this, you might consider asking your partner to tell the story of the incident from their perspective to see how accurate what you wrote down for that part of the exercise was. Do this only at a time when your emotions and their emotions are running cool.

There’s a self help book for Integrative Behavioural Couples Therapy (IBCT) which I recommend over here.