Saturday, December 13, 2008

Perspective

Post: "It is winter."
Other hemisphere replies,
"You're an idiot!"

Can you speak without attaching your own thoughts, circumstances, and biases, which are a natural result of your entire life's experiences? Can you listen without doing the same?

Is it someone's role to understand the other's frame of reference and to be accommodating?

Is it ultimately important either to understand or to be understood?

My wife says, "It's cold!"
I, sitting right beside her, say, "No, it's not."

Was she simply expressing her state, or was she fishing for me to turn up the heat or share a blanket? Did I express a simple truth, that I am not cold, or did I tell her that she is wrong? Did she hear that I am not cold, or did she hear me calling her a liar? Maybe we were joking? Maybe we were fighting?

Even such a simple two-line exchange can be interpreted so many different ways, but there is only one way that comes unencumbered by personal "baggage": She feels cold, and I do not. Putting hidden meaning behind what is spoken and wondering about hidden meaning behind what is heard may be entertaining in certain circumstances, but it can be very easy to lose oneself in such a game. Some of the most devastating misunderstandings occur when we do not realize when we are projecting our own thoughts and feelings upon another's words, when we are hearing what we expect to hear rather than what is actually being said.

Given that you have no ability to ensure that any other person sees things clearly, the best you can do is to practice communicating and sensing things clearly yourself, which in turn will at least help you to see when another is not. Then you can decide how to deal with the situation.