Janet Walkow Christine Jacobs

Camera Angles

LWP Janet and I strongly believe that there are many movie production techniques that if used to produce your own life, would lead to wonderful outcomes.  One of these is to move the camera around and view your life from others’ points of view.  You can be whoever you want to be and behave however you want, but you need to think about how your behavior is viewed by others and the impact it has on others to be truly happy and successful. This is the essence of empathy.

Couples and Happiness

As a pre-Valentine’s gift, The New York Times printed a summary of an article that will be in an upcoming scientific journal.  http://nyti.ms/V4rjHN.  120 couples were studied over a two year period on levels of mutual happiness and satisfaction.  The couples were divided into two groups.  Over the first year all couples were asked to periodically write a few paragraphs about the biggest conflicts they had had with each other over the period and their feelings.   For the most part, marital quality declined over the period. Half of them were considered the control group and with no changes is process, their relationships continued to decline through the second year.

Looking at Things from Another Angle

Half the couples, however, were given a special assignment during the second year.  “Beyond their summaries of the fight, we asked each spouse to write about the conflict from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for both spouses — and, from the perspective of this imaginary individual, to identify, if possible, any single positive aspect to the argument.”

In other words, they were asked to write about the scene from another point of view which we would call another camera angle.  Viewing things in this way—even if you are the writer and director—can be effective.

Changing View Creates More Happiness

Levels of mutual happiness and satisfaction stopped declining for this special group of couples, regardless of length of marriage; the researchers found the impact of this process to be striking.  This process did not reverse previous declines but it did have a stabilization effect.   The authors posit that: “given the trajectory of most marriages, it seems wise not to wait too long. A promise to turn at least some of your fights into short-story workshops may be the sweetest Valentine’s Day gift you ever give — especially if it’s taped to a box of chocolates.”

Christine Jacobs is an experienced corporate executive and a co-founder of Leading Women. Read her full bio.

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