It’s amazing how much stress and conflict in my life actually stems from someone’s perception being different from reality. Most of the time, it is someone’s intentions that are perceived incorrectly, and usually it is assumed the intentions are far worse than what they really were. For example, a suggestion I make will get interpreted as me trying to control things or have things my way, when in reality I am just trying to be helpful. I catch myself making assumptions about intentions too sometimes, but it is usually because the other person has established a pattern of behavior demonstrating they can’t be trusted, make promises they have no intention of keeping, or other not so great behaviors.
It’s very easy to assume the worst and not give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, it is important to act in such a way that demonstrates that one can be trusted and has integrity and good intentions. Trust and respect are both qualities that are easy to lose and difficult to regain, and we need to keep that in mind both with our own behavior and being willing to allow others to redeem themselves. Not being so quick to judge their intentions is important too.
Sometimes two people can perceive the same situation differently and both be correct … or perhaps neither be correct. I think this is especially true when those involved focus mostly on one aspect or dimension of whatever situation instead of the whole picture. Recently, my daughter perceived her dad’s actions as being only to feed his ego whereas he saw them as primarily being helpful to her. I perceived both things to be true. Each of us was coming from a different perspective and saw the situation differently.
This presidential election in particular amazes me because of how drastically different Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are perceived by different people and how willing people are to grasp onto certain characteristics or situations and completely ignore others because they are so focused on one aspect of the candidate’s past or personality. The Hillary-haters are SO anti-Hillary and are willing to overlook pretty much anything Trump says or does to fully support him. And there are those who aren’t so against Hillary but see Trump as the answer to all of our problems, simply because he’s not a career politician and “says it like it is,” even though he may not have the personality or experience necessary to do the job well. Yet, there are the Trump-haters or Hillary supporters who have a completely opposite point of view about the two candidates. How can they both be SO evil and hated by some and loved by others at the same time? It’s all a matter of perspective and what angle you choose to look at … and whether you are willing to consider any other angle besides your current vantage point.
The same can be said for so many other situations. Some people are so quick to form an opinion after only looking at things from one side and ignoring all the rest, or perhaps just from hearing something for the first time. The Ryan Lochte situation is a perfect example. How many people assumed that the first version of the story that they heard was completely true and didn’t think that there might be a different perspective to consider, especially given that there was a language barrier to factor into play? Come to find out, we may never know exactly what the truth is about what actually happened. Meanwhile, both sides maintain that for the most part, their version is true. It’s a good example where both groups (the swimmers and the security guards) may have misinterpreted the other group’s intent. If it weren’t for the person who spoke both languages and decided to intervene, the whole situation may have ended very differently.
I am reminded of being asked a question while at a job interview for a math teacher position and was told if I got it wrong, I could not have the job, but if I got it right, no promises. The scenario was then described where a small plane took off from NYC with 7 passengers on it. When it landed in Columbus, 3 people got off the plane and 8 more got on. In Chicago, 6 people got off and 4 people got on. In Denver, 5 people got on and 9 got off. The plane finally landed in San Diego. I’m sure you’re expecting, as I was, that the question would be, “How many passengers were on the plane?” as if it were an exercise in quick mental math. However, the question was, “How many stops did the plane make?” His point in asking the question was to say that you can’t always just ask the most obvious question or come at things from only one angle or perspective. Multiple perspectives and approaches need to be considered when teaching kids math concepts and problem solving skills. That point has stuck with me all these years.
The same is true in life. We can’t be so close-minded that we only look at situations as being one-dimensional and with only one true perspective. We need to remember that our perception of things isn’t always reality and that there are two or more sides to every story. Sometimes the versions will agree and other times they will not, and often times that is due to intent being perceived differently.
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