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March 5, 2021

Perspective Taking with Team Joyous

Editor’s Note: The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) offers Mind in the Making workshops throughout the region at no cost, thanks to the generosity of The Patterson Foundation. Due to interest from the Hispanic community, a group of bilingual facilitators went through a special training program led by Elizabeth Sierra. These individuals will now join more than 70 facilitators offering Mind in the Making workshops in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. SCGLR Engagement Team member, Jenifer Johnson, shares her reflections on Team Joyous.

As a facilitator for Mind in the Making (MITM), discussing the same skills in a similar format can bring dramatically different responses when posing the same questions to different participants.  

MITM shares that perspective taking involves understanding what others think and feel and forms the basis for children’s understanding of parents, teachers, and friends’ intentions. Children with this skill are less likely to get involved in conflicts.

A lively discussion unfolded during a recent workshop where the following question was asked. “When a situation is making you feel upset, what is something someone has done to make you feel even worse?” The responses shared from this cohort were personal and well thought out. The first response was, “putting me on a guilt trip.” There were several nods of affirmation through the zoom room. Next, someone offered, “when they make assumptions.” The group agreed that this wasn’t helpful either. And more responses came: 

  • dismissing your feelings
  • offering no feedback at all
  • suggestions to toughen up and to hurry up 
  • trying to fix it and one-upping the situation with their own bigger problem

Why do we as humans instinctively do this? What can help us to be more helpful?  

We can do a quick check-in with one of our executive functions. What role does inhibitory control have here?  

We could pause and think about how this person might be feeling and what they want from us at this moment. We can even ask them what they want! This allows for perspective taking. By exercising this pause and thinking about or asking what they want, we move forward with intention and put a spin on the Golden Rule.  

The Golden Rule states, “Treat others how you want to be treated.” When we add the perspective-taking spin to this, it becomes “Treat others how THEY want to be treated.” It’s no longer just about us, and it’s a great gift to give and an even greater gift to receive.  

We finished that exercise with the question, “When a situation made you feel upset, what is something someone did to make you feel better?” Here the smiles emerged, and as they answered in the chat box, responses quickly came across the screen:

  • gave me hug
  • listened
  • offered no judgment
  • stayed calm
  • offered food
  • validation
  • apologized
  • affirmed my feelings
  • give me space to vent
  • walked away cause they couldn’t be supportive
  • helped me think of solutions
  • did a kind act of service to cheer me up 

Of course, these solutions worked for this group, but you’re best to follow the rule above and ask the person in your situation what they need so you can treat them how THEY want to be treated.

The research based around perspective taking shows that children who practice this skill will be involved in fewer conflicts, and when they understand what the characters in a story are thinking and feeling, they have better reading comprehension. These two findings are reason enough for us to promote perspective-taking in children.  

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