Taylor Bandstra '12
Programmatic Account Manager at Google
In my political science degree I had a range of professors—liberal, conservative—and all were great at doing the same thing: They wanted us to push our limits and understand the other side of an argument at all times. A big thing that sticks out in my mind is my capstone project my senior year. Once a week, three other students and I would sit with our professor in the BBC (Bootsma Bookstore Cafe). Since our professor had known us for years, he understood our political viewpoints. He would make us argue the opposite side of our personal beliefs, which helped us understand why people hold their viewpoints and how they logically support their side.
Because it was such a small group, we had some of the best discussions. In a larger group or classroom setting, we wouldn’t have been able to go into the detail we did or, honestly, have some of the arguments we had—it was the best.
Through this, I learned about perspective—that perspective comes from how a person was raised, where they were raised, what they are experiencing at the time. Instead of thinking I am right and this person is wrong, I learned to add in the dimension of perspective and life experience.
This is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in life. It applies personally, with family and friends, and professionally. In life, you are constantly in discussions and often you may disagree or have opposing viewpoints or end goals. Prior to learning this lesson, my instinct when hearing something I disagreed with was to say, “You are wrong, and let me explain to you why.” I still sometimes have this gut reaction, but if I can remember, I now try to understand the reason and perspective behind the opposite side. I think, “They are saying that because they had this life experience, they grew up this way, they have these pressures on them right now.” Because of this, I can come around, or at least better empathize with a person’s viewpoint. It helps us find a middle ground much easier. It’s no longer about right or wrong, but about understanding one another.
This has been crucial at work, because in the working world, you are always facing opposing viewpoints or deadlines. Whether it’s a coworker with a different political view, or maybe pressure from a client. When a client seems angry, instead of being angry back, I think, “This person may be doing this because they are feeling pressure from their boss.” It applies in all aspects of life.