At least stop to consider…

June 11, 2019

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 judge thingsus 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 arroganttalking 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 weworried1 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 no judgementthe 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 cansmiling-sun 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.

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Do you hear the alarms going off?

October 16, 2015

“A guilty conscious is a faults alarm.” – from the Graffiti cartoon

It’s amazing how many cartoonists also turn out to be pretty good philosophers. Most of them occasionally use the simplistic characters and story lines of their cartoons to explore some very weighty moral issues or to make moral points. There was great advice for life to be found in the fun that was drawn in Pogo, or Peanuts, or Calvin and Hobbs. The Graffiti cartoon uses only words (as they might be written or sprayed on a wall) and they are used sparingly; however, it often hits a moral issue or judgement dead-on. The brevity and cleverness of the little sayings of Graffiti often makes you stop and think. Sometimes you have to decipher and expand the little saying to understand its meaning, but there is always meaning.

whining childToday’s little saying makes the case that our faults often result in having second thoughts, remorse or regret later for something that we’ve said or did. The fault is obvious – not being enough in control of ourselves to stop the remark or action before it occurs. Does that happen to you? I know that I have a tendency to sometimes blurt out things, either in judgement of someone or something or in reaction to something or someone’s remarks to us. Yes, I hear the alarms and realize that they go off all too often.

Sometimes the “fault” might actually be found in not saying or doing something when the situation requires it. Lowering your eyes or turning your head to avoid eye contact in situations when the right thing to do is to push back or challenge or rebut are also faults that also leads to a guilty conscious. Not standingtimid up and helping the kid that is being bullied is just about as bad as being the bully himself. Not pushing back and sticking up for yourself when being bullied is also wrong. Letting the boss or the co-worker continue to get away with inappropriate behavior that makes you feel bad or insecure or even frightened, is not “going along to get along”; it is just another wrong and only adds to the problem. You may say, “It’s not my fault; however the fault of not doing something about those things that you know are wrong is yours and yours alone.  Is that a nagging little alarm going off in the back of your mind?

The point of all this isn’t to send you into a weekend with a guilty conscious; but maybe to suggest that you listen to those little alarms that go off in your head, often in “real-time”, as the incident is occurring. Rather than reflect alarmlater on the faults that may have allowed you to act or react badly. Listen to the alarms as they start going off in your mind and pause to think before you act or react, before you blurt out a response or hit the send key on that flamming email. If the alarms going off are telling you that you’ll regret this action later, don’t do it.

That’s a tall order for anyone and requires a self-control that few have naturally. It starts by realizing and admitting to yourself that you have that tendency, to go off half-cocked or with only half of the story or that you sometimes act too hastily and get yourself into trouble or make the situation worse that it was. Think back on situations or incidents where you didn’t exercise that control and ask yourself why you did or said what you said and why you regretted it. Perhaps that will serve as motivation to develop a new personal habit to stop and think before you react – whether it’s stop and count to ten or to bite your tongue. Both of those pieces of “folk advice” are essentially artificial and mechanical ways to just get you to stop and think before you act.

If you can get yourself into the habit of stopping and asking yourself a few quick questions, such as – Do I understand what just happened and why? Why do I feel a need act or react? Do I have enough information to make a wise decision about what to do or say?   Is what I’m about to do or say likely to resolve the issue at hand, calm the issue at hand or make the issue at hand worse?  While that seems like a lot to think about whenthinking woman you read it here it really takes only a few seconds of thought time and could save many hours of remorse later. Snap judgements and the actions that we take based upon them are wrong all too often. Stop and think. You’ll make fewer mistakes and have less to regret later. It will also be much less noisy in your mind, with fewer alarms going off.

Have a great weekend. Practice your new habit of stopping and thinking before you act and that will help you when you  get back to the more hectic work world.