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Quality of life: It’s all about the perspective



Is the quality of life in your community on the way up, going down or staying the same? Ask that question to a group of residents, and chances are that the response to that question will not be unanimous. Why? It’s all about perspective.

Perspective is a way of looking at things. It is all that can be seen from a certain point. For example, if there is a beach ball that is red on one side and white on the other, then two people on opposite sides would see different colors. If each person was certain that what they saw represented the whole, they would probably be surprised to learn that the other side was not the same.

Another way to illustrate this concept is to share with you a true story about a friend of mine in Denver, Colorado. Originally, from Illinois he moved to Denver and became engaged to be married. The wedding was held in Denver. His father, who lived in the rural corn country and had never been out of Illinois, attended the event. The day before the wedding, father and son sat on a balcony and considered the view to the west.

“Just look at that, Dad,” my friend said. “The Rocky Mountains in all their majesty. What do you think?”

“Well,” replied the father. “They’re nice, but they kind of block the view.”

That’s a story about perspective.

There’s a saying in business: “The customer is always right.” What that really means is that the customer is always right from their perspective. Successful business people know that attempting to tell a customer that they are wrong is a useless way to solve their problem.

Perspective is reinforced when a person receives information that appears to confirm their point of view. In today’s world of so-called media subjectivity, a person who has only one source of news will tend to be influenced by that source and reach conclusions related thereto. All we have to do is look at the current political campaign for President to see evidence of that.

Speaking of the media, let us consider two statements, and consider whether each is true or false and whether our responses have been influenced by the news media.


1. Overall, crime in America is going down. True or false?

2. There are more suicides in America than homicides. True or false?


Both these subjects have received much media attention recently. Our perspectives might have been influenced by the news.

The first statement is true. However, in every annual Gallup poll since 2003, a majority of American adults have said that crime is rising. And in a 2013 poll, 56% of Americans said that the number of gun crimes is higher than it was two decades ago—even though gun violence peaked in 1993, as reported in a May 2015 Forbes magazine article by Neil Howe entitled “What’s Behind the Decline in Crime?”

The second statement is also true. According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 16,121 homicides in 2013 and 41,149 suicides.

Consider the magician. In a March 24, 2009 edition of Scientific American entitled “What Can Magicians Teach Us about the Brian?” it is pointed out that magicians are “… masters of exploiting nuances of human perception, attention and awareness.” Magicians manipulate our perceptions by misdirecting attention and by manipulating the audience’s memory, thus making it difficult to reconstruct what happened. One of the examples cited in the article related to an experiment in which people were shown pictures of two faces and asked to choose the more attractive face. After making the choice, the magician slyly switched the faces and asked the person why they chose that face – the rejected one – as the more attractive. Participants tended to make up reasons to explain why they chose that face. So could it be that even when we know we are wrong, we stick by our opinions? Just wondering.

Technology is accelerating the pace of influencing perspective. For example, one of the movie streaming companies recently acquired technology that will provide personalized movie trailers. If my profile with that company indicates that I enjoy action movies, I will see action scenes if I click on the trailer for a certain movie. If my profile is for drama movies, my click would send me dramatic scenes from that movie.

All of this personalization by perspective is not necessarily a bad thing. Customers want and appreciative personalized service. Citizens want to hear good news about their communities. Residents who hear more good news tend to have the perspective that things are doing well and that quality of life is going up. Residents who hear bad news believe quality of life is going down.

In conclusion, whether discussing politics, religion, personal feelings, or whatever, remember that the other person is right … from his/her perspective.

» Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on the web at www.philhardwick.com.


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