Does my wife lack perspective-taking skills?

Postby mojman » Fri Dec 07, 2018 6:42 pm

I'm not sure, but I think my wife lacks perpective-taking skills.

I say this because of several problems she knows she has (she actually asked me a few days back why she has all these problems), and I think they all stem from a lack of perpective-taking skills.

One, she is really bad at dealing with conflicts. She rarely tries to "put herself in the other side's shoes" and gets frustrated and angry easily. The only thing she really concludes in any conflict is that the other person is a bad or terrible person and had just never shown their real self before. When someone does something she doesn't like, I haven't ever seen her say "Okay, I understand why they felt the need to do so. Let's figure out a way forward that works for both of us", instead she would just become frustrated and angry leading to the point where the other person has to compromise or the relationship is severed.

One thing I should mention is that she sometimes does manage to understand the other side's perspective once the conflict is past, but not as much as she should and as quickly as she should.

Two, she has difficulty being, say, a "mentor" to anyone. For example, if she's trying to teach me how to cook something (I can't cook to save my life), she will very easily get frustrated and say things like "it's common sense, you had to lower the flames when it was red", or get frustrated easily why I don't know where a particular spice is. I think it's again because she's unable to step into my shoes and think "Hey, there's no way he would know that red means it's cooked and the stove will need to be set at low - I should tell him that" or "Hey, I remember I placed the spice in the drawer. There's no way he would know that. I should tell him". She even dislikes being a mentor to anyone at work and feels it's a very frustrating experience. She also has a difficult time explaining complex ideas, I think maybe once again it involves stepping into the audience's shoes, but I don't want to pick on that because explaining complex ideas is hard for almost everyone.

Three, she often can't even recognize how she would feel about something in the future. There have been several occasions where she would do something that I can see she wouldn't like in the future, but she can't see it until she gets into the situation and starts hating it and regretting her own decision to put herself there. I think she has a difficult time even putting herself in her own future shoes.

I think her lack of perspective-taking skills stems perhaps from a childhood where the child's perspective is never taken into account and children are just forced into whatever the adults want without any explanation leading all the way up to her being forced to quit education and into an arranged marriage which she knew very well was a terrible idea. In her childhood, the idea of "Hey, you list the reasons you don't want to do this, and I'll tell you about reasons I think you should, and let's talk about it" simply didn't exist. It was just "Hey, this is what we've decided for you and if you don't agree to it, we're not paying for your school." She did have extremely loving parents, but I guess sometimes the people who love you the most can hurt you without even knowing.

Four, she has a habit of trying to use manipulation and lying rather than explaining and negotiating to protect her interests in a situation even when simply asking for what she wants should be sufficient. For example, "I won't talk to you if you do this" is something you would hear her say a lot. I don't know if this is due to a lack of perspective-taking skills, but maybe it is because explaining and negotiating involves stepping into another person's shoes and saying to yourself, "If I ask for what I want, is she likely to agree? If not, what would she want in return for agreeing to my demands?" but I think there's more at play here - I think she's tried the explaining and negotiating part and learned at an early age that it doesn't work. "If you want something out of mom, there's no way she'll agree to your reasonable demand - but if you stop talking to her, she will eventually agree" is probably something she managed to understand at an early age.

Am I on the right track thinking that she lacks perpective-taking skills? If yes, how can I help her build them? Is there some self-help books that can be a help? Are there video trainings that can help? Is this something you need professional help for and maybe we need to look into something like cognitive behavioral therapy or something? I read online that this skill is something that develops in childhood, can we even rebuild it in adults?

I should mention that she doesn't lack empathy - in fact she's more kind-hearted than most people when she can actually see other perspectives. She's an extremely kind and loving extroverted hyper-enthusiastic person with a huge, huge social circle of people who love and admire her - just that these things do get in the way and most people who love her will just accept it as "her being her" but these things do cause problems in mine and her lives.
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Postby Candid » Sat Dec 08, 2018 7:12 pm

mojman wrote:She's an extremely kind and loving extroverted hyper-enthusiastic person with a huge, huge social circle of people who love and admire her -

She probably wishes she'd married one of them, not someone who thinks she needs fixing.

A fixer-upper is a low-priced piece of real estate taken up by someone who likes a bargain. Lots of people make money doing this and find it very satisfying.

It's not such a great idea when choosing a life partner.
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Postby quietvoice » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:36 pm

mojman wrote: . . . her being forced to quit education and into an arranged marriage which she knew very well was a terrible idea.

. . . but these things do cause problems in mine and her lives.

You're probably right. She was forced into a life she didn't want. Why should she care about that which she cares not?
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