Even if you and I, right now, stood in the same place at the same time and looked together in the same direction, we’d have a different experience.
We’d have all the same data flowing to us from the same universe, but we'd take a different sample of it. For some of us, our samples are a little different. Sometimes, they’re so different, we can wonder if we’re the same species.
It’s a conundrum. We’re together at the same viewpoint, but have a different point of view. Judith Martin, writing as Miss Manners, advises hosts to seat couples apart from each other at parties, “. . . because they tell the same stories, but tell them differently.”
In truth, this means that we’re all, by nature, a little off. Our communications go sidewise, because we are sideways to each other.
And when someone has a different view than we do even when we’re within the same experience, it creates a cognitive dissonance.
What’s more, it’s painfully natural to resolve this dissonance by assuming the other person is less intelligent, less moral, or less careful than we are. Easiest just to assume all three.
A long life and a propensity to commit candor makes it hard for me to suggest there’s an easy path or even a possible one. I know the moral arc of the universe is long. Still waiting to see it bend.
Would you like to try something? We have evidence that when we get information, we stuff it into our existing schema.
By contrast, when asked an unexpected question, we open up a bit to explore its meaning and to find a response. When we are the subject of someone’s curiosity packaged as a question, some magic happens. We receive the question as a gift, and are inclined to reciprocate generously.
We say it’s important to listen, but listening’s prerequisite is curiosity offered out as questions.
We stand in the same place at the same time and yet take a different sample of what’s out there.
Have you experienced this sense of being sideways to another?
How hard is it for you to ask someone to share their view?
When is it hard to listen and respond with, “Tell me more?”
Would it make your life richer or harder if you widen your sample? Richer and harder?
Is it worth it to you?