conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

How to Go Out of Your Mind

with 25 comments

Hint: It’s a crazy idea that just might work

Can you ever see from someone else’s point of view?

“No,” some say. We are entirely bound by our own way of seeing. All the world lays before us—all the friends and enemies and acquaintances and mobs, the institutions, the physical world, all the influences, everything that is, was and ever will be (amen)—all of which we perceive from our own vantage point. We fill our brain pan using our eyes, our ears, our sense of touch, our taste buds, our sense of smell.

It’s always me looking out at you.


There are manufactured instances, though. Huge numbers have already bought Star Wars: The Force Awakens tickets for the very experience of looking out at a favorite world through JJ Abram’s eyes, who happens to be channeling George Lucas’ story-brain. We reread Harry Potter or Tom Sawyer for the joy of seeing from someone else’s perspective.

Stories get us close to seeing from someone else’s eyes.

A primary challenge in teaching copywriting to English students is asking them to see from someone else’s perspective. It’s an invitation to awaken the force (as it were) of caring about someone else’s issues and feeling the weight they feel. And though we see and feel imperfectly, it is enough to begin to engage our imagination. And it is precisely the imagination-engaged that produces satisfying, potentially useful copy that has a chance of meeting some human need.

I want to think that as we age, we become better able to see from someone else’s perspective. But my experience says otherwise: it is all too easy to let my world close in to include only what impacts me directly.

Hard work, it is, to begin to see from someone else’s perspective.

And good work.


Dumb Sketch: Kirk Livingston

25 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Great post! I definitely think seeing from another’s perspective gets easier as we age. I know I was wearing some pretty big blinders when I was young. 😊

    • Me too. I’m pretty sure I still have mine on. Thanks, Charlie.


      December 14, 2015 at 10:04 am

  2. Seeing the world through another’s eyes is also known as empathy. Many people have that capability and, as Charlie said, it can develop with time. For some people (particularly on the autism spectrum) this is not possible. Oliver Sacks wrote a wonderful essay called ‘An Anthropologist on Mars’, which details the struggles of an autistic person (Temple Grandin) to understand how others see the world.
    Getting back to your post… It can be very difficult to develop empathy, more so for some people.
    Great post. Thanks.


    December 14, 2015 at 11:16 am

    • Thanks, Jack. I’m a great fan of Oliver Sacks, so I’ll look up that essay. I’m glad you pointed out that developing empathy can be difficult for some. I love being around empathetic people (who doesn’t?) and assumed anyone can pick up those qualities, given time and interest. But you are right to point out that is not necessarily the case. The Temple Grandin is a good one for insight on that topic. Thanks for your comment.


      December 14, 2015 at 12:04 pm

  3. Kirk, I like how you worded this very important concept. “I’m going out of my mind over you.” Wonderful message, especially this time of year when we should be extra giving to those in need and see the world with their eyes and our hearts.

    Sand Salt Moon

    December 14, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    • Thanks, Cynthia. I like your notion of seeing the world with eyes and heart. I want to do more of that.


      December 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm

  4. And good work. Yes.

    Woo! Lovely words and image there Kirk, and I love Cynthia’s line as well. I also have to add I smiled when I saw cheeseburgers and bacon!!! :))).

    Laura (Createarteveryday)

    December 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm

  5. PS if we are ever to dig out of the mire we’re in, seeing from another’s perspective is our shovel.

    Laura (Createarteveryday)

    December 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

  6. A challenge indeed, but one worth striving for each day – even if only for a moment. To see someone else’s point of view even if only for one moment, has the potential to change the world. cherish the moments!


    December 14, 2015 at 8:42 pm

  7. Great post Kirk.
    I remember reading somewhere that people who read and study literature tend to have more empathy (it was an article about the value of liberal arts education as opposed to simply technical education). I think the point you make about stories helping us to see another’s point of view hits the nail on the head.
    But as you say, it’s not enough. We have to work at it. (K)


    December 15, 2015 at 6:22 am

    • Thanks, Kerfe. Stories certainly have a way of pulling us into someone else’s joy or pain.


      December 15, 2015 at 7:50 am

      • I guess if you teach your students to tell stories, that helps them get a feel for what their customers want, right?


        December 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      • Sort of. It’s more like helping them find their own imaginations and voices and then applying those to the work their clients have. In some ways copywriting is a collaboration between a subject matter expert and a communication expert. And the baby these two produce goes walking out into world. So to speak.


        December 15, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      • Something I never thought about. Although when I designed for clients, it was kind of the same thing. Their desires combined with my ideas. You have to leave your own viewpoint at the door, and try to understand what they are looking for.


        December 16, 2015 at 4:25 am

      • Agreed. Except that one reason your client comes to you is precisely because of your viewpoint. I think the thing that is hard for any of us to learn is to begin to see through someone else’s eyes and grid of priorities.


        December 16, 2015 at 5:11 am

      • That is so true. And how to teach it? That is your dilemma, right?


        December 16, 2015 at 11:17 am

      • That is my dilemma.


        December 16, 2015 at 11:51 am

  8. […] See: this has to do with trying to get out of your own brain-pan and jumping into someone else’s life situation. Read more: How to Go Out of Your Mind […]

But wait--what do you think? Tell me:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: