"I have no idea what you’re describing!”
That became a familiar conclusion to an activity I used to run with my career transition classes.
I would set an object in the center of the class after asking one member to stand at the front with back turned. Then three people, each sitting on a different side of the item, would talk about what they saw without using the actual name of the object.
“It’s about a foot tall – a flat rectangle – it’s solid black and has a cord coming out of it. A black cord,” offered person number one.
“No, it’s a big silver box and it’s not flat. There’s a smaller silver box jutting out from the top of it and underneath that is something that looks like a UFO,” weighed in participant number two from the opposite side of the room.
A gentleman sitting between the first two speakers added, “Well, it is flat and black on one side and it is silver and black on the other. But my side has numbers on black plastic. And the silver side has a black rectangle jutting out with a plunger underneath it and a silver container under that.”
“I have no idea what you’re describing!” declared the one listening but not seeing.
Different perspectives yield different interpretations of everything.
Recently I watched a short video by Brene Brown where she talked about perspective taking and how each of us sees the world through a lens constructed from our unique combination of ethnicity, age, education, gender, experience, insights, family, and other factors. Every day we see life as it filters through our lens and many times believe that how we see something is reality. “Our view is the world.”
She then talks about how we mistakenly define empathy as putting down our lens and picking up the lens of another, in order to understand their view. But, “We can’t put down the lens. The lens is soldered to our face. That’s how we see the world.”
So how do we take the perspective of another – having empathy - if the lens we see the world through is soldered to our face?
Brene continues to provide a definition of empathy that resonates deeply with me.
“The answer is, you believe people’s stories; you believe people’s experiences as they tell them to you. You believe when people tell their story and say this is my experience of what it was like to…”
How I see the world will never be the same as how you do. But, I’d like to hear what it looks and feels like for you.
And for those of you who like closure…the object described above was a coffee maker.
With love and gratitude,
In The Midst