“Thinking about differences can help you understand other people better.
There are many situations where our success depends on whether we can take someone else’s perspective. Negotiating with a child, partner, parent, or business requires understanding how someone else’s goals differ from your own. Giving someone directions requires thinking about differences in visual point of view. Teaching successfully involves understanding what information the student does not yet know. […]
A paper by Andrew Todd, Karlene Hanko, Adam Galinsky, and Thomas Mussweiler in the January, 2011 issue of Psychological Science suggested that people’s ability to take someone else’s perspective could be improved by having them think about differences. A lot of research on the way people make similarity comparisons (some of which was done in my lab) suggests that when people think about differences between things, they must first think about similarities and then find ways of distinguishing things based on those similarities. […]
When you are in a situation where success relies on being able to understand how someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or even perceptions differ from your own, focus on the differences between you. The more that you adopt a difference mindset, the easier it will be to see the ways your points of view differ. Once you see how your thoughts differ from someone else’s, you can adjust for those differences when trying to communicate with them or coordinate with them.”