From The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey:
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are— or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms. When other people disagree with us, we immediately think something is wrong with them. But, as the demonstration shows, sincere, clearheaded people see things differently, each looking through the unique lens of experience.
This does not mean that there are no facts. In the demonstration, two individuals who initially have been influenced by different conditioning pictures look at the third picture together. They are now both looking at the same identical facts— black lines and white spaces— and they would both acknowledge these as facts. But each person’s interpretation of these facts represents prior experiences, and the facts have no meaning whatsoever apart from the interpretation.
The more aware we are of our basic paradigms, maps, or assumptions, and the extent to which we have been influenced by our experience, the more we can take responsibility for those paradigms, examine them, test them against reality, listen to others and be open to their perceptions, thereby getting a larger picture and a far more objective view. [bold emphasis mine]
Indeed. That is who I decide to be: a person of integrity who takes responsibility for himself with a firm grasp of reality. It is not easy and Lord knows I fail probably more often than I’d care to admit. (Anger is a powerful drug.) If you have ever had a passionate discussion on politics or religion with someone, this difficulty should be apparent. As responsible adults we can overcome this. (You must if you wish to be an effective person by Covey’s lights.)
Continue reading “Facts Are Stubborn Things”
A lesson I learned about compassion and thinking (or not) when you are emotional.
Today I got into a heated, though thankfully not acrimonious, religious discussion with a good friend which had to end abruptly for the sake of our friendship. Afterward, I was reflecting and was surprised by my emotional reaction. Heart pumping, adrenaline flowing, voices tense. What the hell? We are both very committed Christians and in the heat of the moment we were more talking at each other than conversing with each other. I was taken at how angry I had become. And for no intellectual reason really. It wasn’t that deep. The world would not end, but here I was upset.
It finally occurred to me that as my friend spoke he used words and phrases and believed things that triggered visceral emotional reactions to experiences I’ve had in the past. But not recognizing that is a fundamental mistake. It is very hard to think when you are excited and full of emotion. I reacted rather than acted with intention. My friend was gone replaced by the bogeymen of my past humiliations and righteous anger. I failed to get outside myself and acknowledge him and, most importantly, that he might be feeling precisely the same way. In truth, things I said challenged his deeply held beliefs and that is rarely welcome.
It was an object lesson in compassion. It takes a lot of humility and hard work to “feel with” others. If I had taken the time to do so, we might have turned a sharp disagreement into a teachable moment rather than a clash of ego, belief, and emotion.
Here on a long term business trip. Teaching a course and running the program encapsulating it. In addition meeting up with Wharton alums and networking my proverbial ass off. Difficult being away from my family. Miss them terribly. Just makes me more determine to squeeze this trip for all the value I can.
Don’t know why children aren’t allowed to visit sick adults. It bothers me that a dear aunt couldn’t see and touch her greatnephew. What’s the health risk to a 11 month old or to her?
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