Which point of view is most persuasive? There’s seeing the case from the “inside” point of view of the injured party, the Plaintiff. There’s seeing the case from the “inside” point of the view of the responsible harm-inducing party, the Defendant. And then there’s seeing the case from the “outside” point of view of a Neutral, someone who can look impartially at the entire case with detachment and disinterest. Those are the only three possible viewpoints, right?
Well, there’s actually a fourth viewpoint––someone who can look objectively and impartially at the case from an “inside” point of view. What does this mean? It means we typically use our two eyes, from a single viewpoint, but occasionally we need to access our third eye.
Traditional advice is to take the position of the party whom you represent and see and express the case only through their eyes. Your client was stopped at a red light and was struck from the rear at high speed. You speak as if that person were capable of speaking, emphasizing only their point of view, and minimizing or ignoring the rest. You see the case through the eyes of your client, not as a neutral but as an advocate, emphasizing all supportive facts, and minimizing anything harmful.
A neutral “outside” position, conventional wisdom holds, will not be what’s needed to convince others to decide in your favor. But what about viewing the case through the eyes of a neutral “inside” position? What, if any, advantage does such a point of view provide?
A neutral “inside” position from the point of view of an observer is actually a useful exercise to engage in since you may find areas you otherwise might have missed. By seeing your client’s position through the lens of a disinterested observer brings clarity to areas which you and your client may not have been aware.
A disinterested view through the eyes of the Plaintiff. Your client is using a large industrial food processing machine with recessed, rotating blades. A momentary lapse in concentration results in your client’s hand being pulled into the machine, resulting in a traumatic amputation. The view from your client’s perspective is clear––at the time of the incident the blades were not visible, they were recessed making them impossible to see. As an advocate, you would be arguing this.
But what if you were to take a disinterested view? Your impartial eye would see the area from every angle, not just the angle of the Plaintiff. You scan the entire area 360°, slowly. First, you start at the height and distance of the Plaintiff, then you move to the side, then upward and downward. At first you learn nothing from this exercise until you see that the blades are more visible, and less visible, depending on the angle. Then you notice something else: the limited metal guarding that’s present does not actually protect against a user’s hands making inadvertent contact with the blades––at any angle.
In a car accident, you start with the exact position and location of the Plaintiff. But then you invoke your third eye. You slowly scan the entire area, and this time you begin to pick up details, previously unnoticed. You see the front of the car in relation to the other car, you see debris scattered on the roadway, you notice details of the surrounding area––then it dawns on you: the other driver had an unobstructed view whereas your driver did not. Etc.
A disinterested view through the eyes of the Defendant. The same technique can be used, but this time assume the point of view of the Defendant. You scan the entire area, looking for vulnerabilities. If the defendant is a product manufacturer, you move beyond its limited frame of reference, considering the products and practices of other companies in the industry. If other companies utilize a certain safe practice, or design, you can then use this to establish feasibility in terms of both cost and technology. Etc.
The sight lines of a detached observer open up new perspectives. You’re no longer limited to a single point of view. You have the advantage of unlimited perspective, of seeing things disinterestedly from both the “outside” as well as the “inside.”
A disinterested approach is a useful tool in a variety of contexts––most never take the time or energy to tap into this. We feel secure within the confines of our own pre-designated, self-enclosed territory. We don’t look because in part we’re not seeking. Sight lines of the third eye––it’s okay to look. To look past, to move beyond––it’s all part of getting a clear view of things.