On the importance of perspective

Lately I had a realization about how important perspective is. There are two main ways to view a situation. In the first one, let's call it Perspective 1, we can think about something that seems wrong that someone else does like “This is wrong, it shouldn't be like this”, or "This guy is an idiot. How can he do something like that?". When we do that we tend to affect our mood negatively and our wish to improve things fades away also. The other way we could see the situation, let's call it Perspective 2, would be something like “What can I do, that is within my power in order to improve this situation, even if it’s just a tiny change for the better”. Many times our instinct nudges us towards Perspective 1 and this can lead to conflics or in the very least no improvement for the better and an increase in resentment. On the other hand if we go for Perspective 2, we can actually improve things and a number of gradual improvements like this can lead to a better overall situation.

One situation where choosing the right perspective is quite important is during Code Review. A lot of times people have different levels of knowledge and familiarity with certain code bases and there is the tendency to be some sort of a disconnect between people's expectations of "how things should be done". There is also different styles of Software Developers, some favoring more implementation and speed, while others favoring more detailed planning and questioning current abstractions.

Another case in which I noticed perspective can play an important role is in politics, and more exactly how people's views of politics are. I think this can be observed from the political debates, but also from how the media covers the topics of the day. I've had the chance to live in two quite different societies (Romania and Germany) and what I saw is that when people tend to favor Perspective 2, there is also a tendency towards more nuance in debates and going deeper in some topics, which can lead to better decisions, that are more in-line with what most of the population is thinking.

One thing that helped me nudge myself more towards Perspective 2 was the Stoic idea of the focusing on the things that you can control. Generally in life there are things that we can control and do something about and there are things that we have no power over. A lot of times we waste our time focusing on the things that we can't control, becoming frustrated in the process, when we could instead just focus what is up to us without focusing on the rest.

So for example when it comes to code review, I can focus on understanding the problem, writing a clear comment and offering a good alternatives where I think improvements are needed, but expecting the other person to listen 100% to my suggestions is unrealistic and entirely out of my control, so I should probably skip that.

When it comes to politics, many have the tendency to expect the Goverment to fix all the problems, and when these expectations fall short, people tend to gravitate towards parties with more radical views, which usually don't have real solutions and bring the state of affairs to an even worse state. What we could do instead would be to try to do all that is up to us for the concrete issues that we want fix. We can report the issues, we can call, email or go talk directly to people that can change things, but that's where our task ends. That's not to say we should be soft on the representatives and allow them to ignore our complaints, but having the unrealistic expectations of things getting fixed immediately doesn't help anybody, neither ourselves, neither our family and friends that have to tolerate our bad mood.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when giving feedback to other people, keep in mind what you can control and what you cannot. It's healthier for everyone involved.