Alternate Title: Understanding other perspectives and approaches goes a long way
If life was a book or video game, then we would all share the same foundation. The characters we meet, pacing, style of writing, framing of what’s “good” or “bad” and more would be equal. We would still have different priorities and desires, but it would be easier to understand where one another is coming from. However, real-life is much more intricate.
The universe is organized chaos
[Here’s a Reoccurring Thought (RT) of mine: Life isn’t complicated. But, humanity often makes it so.]
Some protagonists proudly defeat villains, rescue strangers, or fight for their dreams while rarely being overwhelmed. Others consider it a real accomplishment just to get out of bed each day.
Now, I’m aware that may come across as stark extremes. But, stay with me. And no worries, I’m not judging where someone sets their bar. In fact, I’m only attempting to set the stage.
You see, one thing that never gets discussed often enough (at least in the circles I know of) is the foundation of how and why people are who they are. And no, I’m not talking about nature vs nurture. Or free will vs destiny. It’s not even the “do your thoughts or do your actions make you who you are” debate. Although, I’m sure these things and my point coincide.
If I want to know how you do things then I look at your approach to life. If I want to know why then I find out your perspective. This is how I frame people and narrow the gap between my earlier analogy about books and real life.
The reason being is that I think the universe (and thus life) is naturally chaotic. And to me, that means our understanding of it begins with inherent nonsense and then we create structure from it. Essentially, the abstract becomes sensible. But the way everyone does this differs. Why? Because of priorities, desires, habits, and a bunch of other pesky details. We’ll come back to this, though.
You see, in video games, sometimes characters have stat bars that indicate their levels of various attributes (like intelligence, bravery, or charm). I like to visually think of approaches and perspectives as something similar. For anyone that doesn’t know what I’m talking about, this what you really need to know:
- People use a rational or visceral approach.
- People think from a personal or societal perspective.
- Each quadrant has multiple levels.
- They all exist together.
First off, don’t assume that rational is by default the best choice or the “calm and collected” approach. Or that visceral is naturally flawed or is something inexplicable. Again, everything is inherently nonsensical, thus neither approach can truly be “better” or more “logical.”
When I say rational I mean structural/concrete/I-can-explain. Admittedly, you might not be able to explain it well or in a way that the other person understands. But, what’s important to note is that there’s a conscious awareness of this approach before an action. It may have come from an observation, a feeling, an idea, etc. Regardless, there’s a conscious thought guiding your actions. Here are some examples:
- Something happens and you’re upset. You decide to contact Person A to discuss what went wrong.
- It’s a bad day and you intentionally go online to antagonize a stranger and release some anger.
- You witness a private moment between Person B and Person C. You decide there’s a high chance that you might accidentally “spill the beans.” Thus, you purposely create and execute an elaborate plan to get somebody else to expose it.
By visceral I’m referring to instinctual/abstract/it-just-happened mindset. Simply put, visceral is automatic. It’s an impulse. Again this doesn’t mean it’s wrong or that you can’t later provide logic to support it. With a visceral approach, you don’t have the opportunity to analyze before acting. It’s like autopilot mode. Thus, visceral can be viewed as a subconsciously attentive approach. Some examples are:
- Someone throws something at you and you instinctively try to catch or avoid it.
- Intuitively reading a room.
- Automatically holding the door open for the person after you.
Both approaches have their pros and cons. And both have higher chances of successes depending on circumstances.
[And, yes. You can have a rational approach that’s arguably nonsensical. Or a visceral approach that’s arguably the smartest move.]
Perspective is our guiding principle. It’s the way we perceive ourselves and the rest of the world. There are two versions. You can view something from your own unique Point of View (PoV) or by utilizing what you believe to be society’s (such as your country, culture, community, or peers). Of course, the two perspectives can reflect one another and in some cases, you may view them as the exact same thing. The difference however is whether you’re judging something to be true/right/obvious for most people (which is a societal perspective) or you’re viewing it as highly dependent on the individual (which is a personal perspective).
Why the difference? Well, by default each person has their own unique perspective. However, when people come together, a culture forms. Dynamics are established and rules (some unspoken, others written down and/or enforced) are brought about. A technical phrase for this is called social scripts. The idea is that for any action there exists a set of social constructs that determines the collectives’ understanding of boundaries, goals, “right” vs “wrong” and more. For example, some cultures promote direct communication. Other cultures find it rude or inconsiderate and promote indirect communication instead. Other topics include:
- Whether to split the bill
- Who/when/if you should marry
- How you should treat your family
- Education expectations
- Whether to follow your passion
- How to express affection
- The acceptable level of “childishness” in adults
In other words, there’s an unlimited range of topics and actions influenced by our understanding of what society supposedly thinks is the norm. Thus, whether someone abides by the perceived norms or not is often a source of controversy.
In the chart, each quadrant has 4 levels. See:
In this case, four is arbitrary. But what does matter is there are multiple levels. Why? Well, remember that this theory centers on forming a foundation for how we perceive ourselves and the world. In other words, I’m analyzing how we analyze. And while I may provide decent explanations, analogies, and examples for the most part. There is a chance that some aspects might not make sense to you. [Whether it be because you don’t think in a way that I’ve expressed or whatever is irrelevant.]
Why does that matter? Well, there are different levels of this spectrum. The more you’re consciously aware of the spectrum and the various ways it plays out in real life, the higher your level is likely to be. The higher the level, the more consistent, conscious, and subtle understanding you can grasp. The lower the level, the less likely you are to grasp the big picture or realize indirect meanings. Or in the case of a visceral approach, since it’s inherently absent of immediate conscious control, a higher level could mean a drastic/life-changing action is likelier to occur impulsively.
How the quadrants interplay
After reading all that you might be inclined to try stereotyping people and situations, just with a better understanding. [I advise against that.] Or you might think that someone can only be one of each of the two options.
Allow me to reiterate: approaches and perspectives exist together. And everyone has a different level breakdown of the quadrants. Remember those pesky details I ignored earlier? Things like your beliefs, circumstances, desires, motivation, personality, preferences, and such will influence your quadrants. So while I think the approaches and perspective theory allows us to have a decent foundation when interacting with others, it by no means should be used as a decisive evaluator. At the end of the day, we all share commonalities. But, our details are how we stand out. Whether it’s a person, situation, or community you’re analyzing, you’ll need to pay attention to the details to truly understand.
Anyhow, as for more concrete information regarding how the quadrants interplay, this may be dependent on individual interpretation. Nonetheless, I will provide a list of options based on how many quadrants a person typically uses:
- Dual-user: Someone who relies heavily on one approach and one perspective. [In my experience, rational & personal and visceral & societal are most common.]
- Tri-user: This is the case for individuals who are about equal with utilizing both approaches and one of the perspectives or both perspectives and one approach. [I consider myself in this league.] As an example, someone who relies mostly on a rational approach, but can regularly recognize the societal perspective alongside their (and other’s) personal perspective, counts as this. If the person can list various explanations or causes of both perspectives then they’re likely higher level than the lower level.
- Rounded-user: The person that’s about equal in all four quadrants.
To be clear, a person can’t only rely on one quadrant. And approaches and perspectives are a package deal. So, it’s impossible to be mainly approaches, but exclude perspectives. Or vice versa.
That’s all, folks
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page…
This theory is meant to offer a foundation for understanding, whether it be yourself, others, or even a situation. It’s not a guide for stereotyping others. Instead it’s simply a starting point for learning more about someone or something.
If life is like a book or video game then consider this theory the introduction/tutorial stage for understanding more about society and your own PoV.