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The Perspective Gap

Updated: May 30, 2023



Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like someone doesn't get you?


Maybe a single friend who doesn't understand your relationship struggles. These feelings of being misunderstood can lead to resentment, whether intentional or not.


Let's Stop for a second and think about which side of that coin you could be on. For every person you think doesn't get you, there will always be a person who wants to be understood by you.

The loop you just read about is the "perspective gap" phenomenon, and bridging it is key to natural emotional intelligence.


I came across this phenomenon while reading Adam Grant's book "Give and Take," in which he addressed the idea of a "perspective gap."

According to Grant, "When we're not experiencing a psychologically or physically intense state, we dramatically underestimate how much it will affect us. For instance, evidence shows that physicians consistently think their patients feel less pain than they are. Without being in a state of pain themselves, physicians can't fully realize what it's like to be in that state."


An experiment led by Northwestern University psychologist Loran Nordgren perfectly illustrates the surprising nature of the perspective gap :


With his experiment, individuals were instructed to predict how painful it would be to sit in a freezing room for five hours. The first group made their predictions while immersing an arm in a bucket of warm water. A second group made their judgment while holding an arm in a bucket of ice water.


Who do you think would have expected to feel the most pain in the freezing room?


As you would have already guessed, it was the cold water group. People with an arm in ice water felt that the freezing room would be 14 percent more painful than those with an arm in warm water.


But what's interesting here is what happened when a third group was tested for the same conditions differently.


The set of people in the third group also stuck one of their arms in a bucket of ice water. Then, they took the arm out and waited ten minutes before estimating how painful it would be in the freezing room.


What was the result?

Their predictions were similar to the warm water group. Having experienced ice-cold temperatures just ten minutes earlier, they couldn't effectively remember the degree of pain once they were no more exposed to it.


What is going to solve this gap?

As I mentioned above that the element bridging the gap is natural emotional intelligence which is a word we all are well-known about "EMPATHY."

There's confusion between sympathy and empathy among our brains.

Sympathy is understanding another person's emotions, whereas empathy is sharing feelings for that emotion.


For example, there's a difference between knowing when a person has a hard time and understanding why they have it versus experiencing it yourself.

Empathy requires not only experience but also understanding of our own emotions. How can you empathize with emotion when we don't understand our emotions themselves?


Nonetheless, there is a difference in understanding when someone walks down a patchy road and walking the same road with them.

Let's take the time to understand the people's scuffles as they apply to our own lives.


When an association with individuals around us is made and, who are going through difficult stretches which we have experienced, it works both ways.


FYI, here's an exciting link to understand Sympathy and Empathy.

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