A woman looks out her kitchen window into the yard of her neighbour and sees her laundry drying on the line. She scoffs at her husband, “Just look at our neighbour’s washing, it’s not even clean! Perhaps she needs a better soap”. This continues over the next few weeks with the woman making similar comments each time she looks out.
One day she is surprised to see a nice clean wash hanging on the line. “Well,” she says sarcastically, “Our neighbour finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder who taught her.” Her husband replied quietly, “I got up early this morning and cleaned all our windows”.
A woman goes into a shop to buy a fridge. The salesman that serves her is friendly and polite but seems a little distracted. He glances at his phone a couple of times, and this irritates the woman. She decides he is self-absorbed and uninterested in being of service and leaves the shop without a fridge.
The next day she comes back and speaks with the manager. She explains that the salesman’s attitude was the reason she didn’t make a purchase and that perhaps he should be spoken to. The manager apologises on his behalf and tells the woman that the salesman spends every evening and most of the night in the hospital where his wife has a terminal illness and has only weeks to live. He needs the job to pay the medical bills.
We have probably all come across the guy whose kids have grown up and left home and he decides to buy a red sports car. ‘Wow’ we say, ‘He must be having a mid-life ‘crisis’. Could it just be that he has reached a new chapter in his life where he has more choices about how he spends his time and money now his kids are self-sufficient?
What about the woman who decides to get cosmetic surgery? Why does she have to be having a crisis, or justify her decision to do something that makes her feel good?
We can also be tempted to make everything one way or another. For example, if I’m a cat lover I must not like dogs. If I don’t believe in one political point of view I must be voting for the opposition. If I am a business owner I must have more money than other people.
My partner and I have started asking each other, ‘What did you just hear?’ when we can see a negative reaction to something we’ve just said. In almost every single case what was said was NOT what the other heard. And further to this, our mind will automatically draw on past experiences to help us interpret what we (think we) hear or see. This also goes for our self-talk. When we continually tell ourselves ‘I’m dumb’, our mind will dig up all the evidence it can find where we considered ourselves stupid. How do you think this plays out?
So, what’s the point of all of this?
Sometimes what we see depends on the purity of the windows through which we look – so keep clean windows.
Often who or what we see is not what is really in front of us – so be compassionate in your interactions, and don’t presume to know what goes on in another person’s life.
Not everything needs a label – labels encourage stereotyping which can make one story the only story. There is always another side or two.
Often what we hear is not what was actually said – it’s worth clarifying if they actually said you are lazy, fat, useless, or incompetent … or if that was just what you heard.
Dalya xx 💙