A Lesson in Perspective Taking

In her book Mind in the Making, Ellen Gallinsky highlights the importance of “perspective taking” one of the seven essential life skills that all children need to be taught.

I read a story recently that highlighted this important lesson…

A Man Pushed His Wife to Save Himself from a Sinking Ship

Sinking Ship - From Wallpapersinhq.com
Image Source: Wallpapersinhq.com

A cruise ship met with an accident at sea. On the ship was a couple who, after having made their way to the lifeboat, realised that there was only space for one person. At this moment, the man pushed the woman behind him and jumped onto the lifeboat himself. The woman stood on the sinking ship and shouted one sentence to her husband.

What do you think she shouted?

A teacher posed this question to her class and many of her students gave answers like, “I hate you! I was blind!” Except for one student, who, when asked for his answer, replied, “I believe she would have shouted – Take care of our child!”

Indeed, that was what the woman said. This is the rest of the story from Metaspoon:

The cruise ship sunk. The man went home and brought up their daughter single-handedly. Many years later after the death of the man, their daughter found his diary while tidying his belongings. It turns out that when parents went onto the cruise ship, the mother was already diagnosed with a terminal illness. At the critical moment, the father rushed to the only chance of survival. He wrote in his diary, “How I wished to sink to the bottom of the ocean with you, but for the sake of our daughter, I can only let you lie forever below the sea alone”.

When we first read the title of the story, our inclination is to judge – what a terrible husband, what a bad man – but once you know the rest of the story, it completely changes our perspective of that man. Life is full of incidences like the sinking ship and it is easy to pass judgement without knowing the full story…

When I’m on the road, I am sometimes met by the annoying driver who cuts in at the last minute because he wants to jump queue. Or perhaps he made the mistake of being in the wrong lane and realised too late – as I have done on occasion and been hooted at for attempting to cut queue.

When I was studying dentistry, we were warned by a lecturer not to pass judgement on another dentist’s work because we are not familiar with the conditions that that dentist had to work in. After having worked in make-shift dental clinics without the full range of equipment we have been spoiled with, I’ve realised how difficult it can be to provide text-book treatment.

Sometimes it can be difficult to teach our children about the importance of seeing things from someone else’s perspective. That is when stories like the sinking ship can help.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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