Changing the Way We See Things

Imagine for a minute that you and I are faced with the same scene: we’re standing on a street corner in downtown Seattle around midnight, when we hear people yelling, agitated voices, then a loud bang followed by three men running out of a back alley. What’s going on?

Okay, some kind of fight, probably a mugging, and possibly even someone getting shot, right? Do you think you and I would respond in the same manner? While you want to call the police, for example, is it possible that I would rather just run to safety? Or chase after the three men to get information to pass onto police? Or go looking for an injured person in the alleyway?

It’s very likely that we would both respond in very different ways. Why? Because we have different mental programming, different software in our minds, developed over many years from our own unique experiences.

In the seconds that go by while you and I both scan the darkest regions of our minds to figure out what to do based on our programming, it hits you: this isn’t a real mugging, but a movie being shot. Almost immediately your body relaxes, and what goes through your mind next is, “Hey, I wonder if we can see some big-name star.”

Again, your programming, and therefore how you interpret a situation is different than mine. You can’t understand why I’m still looking nervous. With enough time, you might even think I’m not very smart for not realizing what’s really going on.

Now imagine your surprise when we walk around the corner and don’t see all the typical movie cameras, crews and trailers. What we notice is another three young men staggering out of the alley, wearing UW jerseys, hats and carrying purple and gold flags. Behind them, on the ground, is a beer can flattened as if run over by a truck. In this case, though, one of the first three men had grabbed it from the UW fans and stomped on it hard enough to cause the exploding bang we heard.

My point is that every situation, and every person can be interpreted in many different ways. And we will do that based on our programming, which was developed through many years of experience and interactions with countless numbers of people.

Makes you think that before you conclude what’s happening in any situation or with any person, stop, walk around the corner, and maybe even look at it from a completely different perspective. It’s not going to change your programming, but that different perspective, that different view, and especially more information may change which program gets triggered and how you’ll respond.

By the way, do you think the first three men were friends or foes of the UW fans?

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