From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of advice – “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” (Harper Lee)
I’m glad that Harper Lee used the word “consider”; rather than “see”, because it is both literally and figuratively impossible for us to see things from another person’s point of view. We all “see” and interpret the things that we see through the filters of preconditioning, prejudices and prior knowledge. Unless we stop and make the conscious effort to consider what we are seeing differently, we run on autopilot and let those filters direct our thinking about what we are seeing/hearing/experiencing.
Sometimes the filters that interpret our experiences set us on high alert. We are fearful or wary without really understanding why. Sometimes our preconditioning leads us to be judgmental without any supporting evidence that would lead to that conclusion. Perhaps we are dismissive of a suggestion or a person, not because we have any real reason to be, but just because…
This rush to judgement, or fear, or whatever the reaction, can be particularly true when meeting people. Our eye allow us to “see” what kind of person they are, without even talking to them. We check their clothes their appearance and their demeanor before we are even within hearing distance. If we see signs that alarm us, we immediately rush to judgement and become fearful, defensive or worse. In many cases that means that an opportunity to meet someone that is really quite interesting and worth knowing is lost before it gets a chance.
So, it is worthwhile to stop and think about Harper Lee’s advice as we go through the day. In the Buddhist world there are terms for this – it is called mindfulness or awareness. Unfortunately, most of us go through the day blissfully unaware of the filters that are controlling our encounters with others. We may become aware that we are a bit frightened by or not at ease with someone, but we don’t stop to consider why that reaction has overcome us.
Perhaps in our minds an encounter with someone immediately conjures up words or thoughts or reactions that flood our minds. But why? Stop and consider that first and maybe you’ll take the next step, which is realizing that those initial reactions have no basis in what is happening now and are just preconceptions and prejudices at work in your mind.
You will never be able to understand the perspective that the other person has on life or the reasons behind why they choose to dress or act like they do; however, you can understand and control how you react to them and how they appear to you. You can decide not to let the filters of prejudices and preconception color your view of them. You can decide not to rush to a judgement before you’ve even had time to interact with them.
At least stop to consider as your day goes on and see if your perspective on things doesn’t change for the better. You might be surprised how many interesting people you can meet that way. You might also begin to appreciate how much richer your view of the world becomes once you remove the filters through which you have been viewing it. Have a wonderfully rich ad non-judgmental day.