Are there differences in how men and women view life? A recent study published in the Journal of Vision found differences in the way the genders absorb visual information. In other words, women and men look at faces differently and understand visual cues in a different way. The study used an eye tracking device to monitor the amount of eye contact for each participant. As it turns out, women focused more on the left side of the face and explored the entire face much more than men. Men and women look at things differently and perceive visual data in different ways.
An experiment that I created when meeting with couples for an initial visit involves them looking at a framed picture in my office and sharing what they first identify in the picture. I’d estimate that about 90% of the time they observe something different. The picture is of the Miami skyline from thirty years ago and typically the husband notices the tall buildings while the wife identifies the reflection in the water. Unfortunately I don’t have statistical data to support my claim, but base these findings on my observations. When I ask the couple which one is correct they realize that this is a trick question and that they are both correct. The couple views this picture like they view life, through a different lens. Unfortunately many couples don’t accept or respect their partner’s perspective when it’s different from their own. Ultimately they have to decide whether they want to be right or happy.
How can you appreciate and respect your partner’s perception? First you have to make sure you understand where they are coming from since we often assume without clarifying. Sometimes we have to paraphrase what the other person is saying to make sure we heard it correctly. Simply accepting that other ways of looking at things are plausible and have value will enable a person to appreciate their partner even if it means agreeing to disagree. I encourage couples to practice stepping into each other’s shoes when they disagree and try arguing the opposing side. Remember that having a different perspective is not about being right or wrong; it’s just different. Trusting each other and avoiding defensive or justifying responses can help the process move in a positive direction. As the New Year approaches, decide that seeing things differently broadens your perspective while rejecting others’ opinions keeps you stuck in a narrow focus. When we avoid over personalization and need for control we are more open and receptive to other people’s opinions. Decide today to appreciate the different ways to approach and perceive life.