#307 You and an Elephant

A Parable About Blind Guys and Perspective

In our last +1, we talked about you and your donkey and the fact that you can’t please everyone all the time.

Continuing our theme of old-school animal parables, let’s talk about six blind guys and an elephant. Here it goes.

First, whisk yourself back to a time long ago in a land far away. Now, imagine six blind guys who have never seen an elephant before and have no idea what one is or looks like.

They each walk up to the elephant at a different spot.

The first blind guy touches the side of the elephant and declares, “This is like a wall!”
Another guy touches the tail and says, “No! This is like a rope!”
The next guy touches the trunk and declares, “This is like a snake!”
Our next guy grabs the tusk and says, “This is like a spear!”
Our fifth fellow touches the ear and says, “This is like a fan!”
And, finally, our sixth blind gentleman touches a leg and says, “This is like a tree trunk!”

Here’s what’s interesting. All those blind guys are 100% sure that they’re 100% right.

Of course, they’re not. Their perspective is only partially true.

Of course, we laugh at this story. But, guess what? Same rules apply for us and that last political debate we had. Or that little argument with a spouse or child or colleague.

We tend to think that we’re 100% right and that the other person is 100% wrong.

But, as Ken Wilber says, NO ONE is smart enough to be 100% right about anything. Nor is anyone smart enough (or silly enough) to be 100% wrong about anything.

There’s always a PARTIAL truth to every perspective. And, if we want to Optimize our communication, we’d be wise to start our dialogues by trying to see the other person’s perspective, finding a place of mutual agreement and then (and only then) respectfully tiptoeing to the outer edges of potential disagreement.


Today’s +1. The next time you might be feeling a little frustrated in a chat, see if you can step back and try to see the other person’s perspective.

Remember the blind guys and their six different elephants.

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