This week I’ve run across the topic of “reality” vs. “people’s personal perceptions” of things in multiple places. It is truly a fascinating topic. A frustrating and confusing topic, but fascinating.
One place I saw this message was in the Kindle version of the old book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (I hadn’t used the Kindle app in a while but decided it might be nice to have a book going on my phone. I stumbled across the free version of this book and I’d never read it, despite having heard about it many times.)
In the very beginning, the author talks about how we all have “maps” in our heads that determine how we interpret a situation. Importantly, he mentions that we need to keep in mind that a MAP does not equal the actual TERRITORY, though. If we have the map for Detroit, but we’re actually in Chicago, the map is pretty useless. We have to be careful when it comes to always just blindly trusting these maps.
Our maps (aka “assumptions”) have been developed over time, depending on our family, school, church, friends, social situations, education, etc. He says that the maps evolve over time, making a “silent unconscious impact” on us- ultimately helping to “shape our frame of reference”.
Here is a little screenshot:
The chapter continues, and there is a picture of this young woman on the page:
Now, we’ve probably all done this exercise at some point, but I think it’s pretty powerful.
You then turn the page, and he asks you study this picture:
As you probably know, this is a trick photo. At first, I clearly saw the young woman with the dark hair, probably because I just looked at the young woman with the white bonnet above. But then he asks the reader to find the old woman in the same photo. See her huge nose and the shawl over her head? Once I saw her, I actually had a hard time going back to seeing the young woman. It’s a total mind game.
I think this is such a great example of how people can literally be looking at the same, exact situation, and see completely different things. Half of the world might insist this a photo of a young woman, while the other half might say it’s clearly an old woman. Who is right? Who is wrong??
This message is so relevant especially in today’s world. So often you see so many people who are convinced that “they know the answer” or “their way is the right way”. It exhausts me. We all do it- I am as guilty as the next person, because I, too, have maps in my head and naturally view things from my perspective.
I do think I’m maybe at least more aware of this phenomenon than the average person, maybe because I read a lot of social science stuff? I don’t know. I’m slow to engage in political/ controversial arguments, and I commonly feel like my answer is, “I need more information” or “I don’t really know”. I generally feel acutely aware that there many complex sides to any story. I have a strong distaste for people who lean very, very hard one way, all the time, on everything, because it seems very illogical to me. Life is just so much more complex than that. There can’t possibly be “one way”, all the time.
Recently I listened to a podcast (I cannot for the life of me remember which one, or I’d link it) that was talking about differing viewpoints. Most of the episode talked about how to calmly engage with people who don’t agree with you on something. (This wasn’t specifically political- just about dealing with general disagreements.) I was SO DISAPPOINTED that most of the interview focused solely on “how to gently make the other person agree with you and see your point of view”. WHY?! Why is there, again, this assumption that you are automatically 100% correct and it’s the other person who must always need the convincing? I was really hoping there would be more discussion on how to encourage active listening, question asking and deep thought on both sides, with an end goal of both people learning from the other. Maybe it’s you (or me!) who needs enlightening! 🙂
Anyway, I also ran across these relevant quotes this week:
Where we stand depends on where we sit.
We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.
Deep thoughts for a sleepy Thursday over here. Yawn. I’d be really happy to just have a lazy day off today- I’m tired! But, I don’t. So, I’d better run. Have a great day!
I am grateful for school bus drivers.