On page 21 of Steven Lilienfeld's book Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding, the first principle of scientific thinking is identified: ruling out rival hypotheses. Lilienfeld summarizes it by saying "whenever we evaluate a psychological claim, we should ask ourselves whether we've excluded other plausible explanations for it" (21). Of course, this method of thinking does not need to strictly be applied to "psychological claims", but it can also be used for every day situations. When analyzing a situation, consider all of the possibilities. When a friend doesn't text back, before jumping to conclusions and thinking that they are ignoring you, consider other possibilities. Perhaps they were sleeping or their phone was broken. Or when going out to eat, the server may be less enthusiastic as a result of dealing with rude people all day, not because they are bad at their job.
Manipulation is commonly used tactic in the media. Reality TV shows are known to manipulate scenes and misconstrue dialogue in order to create a more dramatic story line. Tabloids are filled with misleading titles and unflattering photos. Paparazzi lurks on the outskirts of the lives of celebrities, waiting to attack and capture the perfect moment of a celebrity at their worst. Take, for example, this photo of Jessica Simpson:
Although terrible dancing is her own fault, tabloids could create speculation of Jessica being pregnant, when in fact it is a combination of an unfortunate angle, unfortunate moment, and unfortunate wardrobe.
Rather than seeing in black-and-white, it is always important to see a story from every perspective and consider every possibility. A recent example from my life is that my roommate's cat, Margaret, had an issue with urinating in all the wrong places: his bed, the rug, or the worst of all: my leather coat. Rather than considering that Margaret was ill, my roommate was under the impression that his cat was simply having problems adjusting to being around different people in a new environment. Finally, after the problem continued, he decided to bring his cat to a veterinarian. As it turns out, his cat in fact had a bladder infection and he was finally able to get her help. Instead of waiting, he should have gone to the vet immediately to discover the issue and solve the problem.
In conclusion, considering alternative explanations to problems can resolve a lot of conflict, broaden minds, and make sense of situations. I feel as though this concept can also be applied in the sense of putting ourselves in another person's shoes and examining the situation in their position. Doing this will allow us to gain a lot of understanding in many different situations, and I feel that this ability to see through another pair of eyes is absolutely essential to our every day lives.