A married couple went to a college football game where their alma maters played against each other in a rival game. Two people who love each other at the same event watching the same plays unfold. Their reactions, as predictable, were polar opposite. When team A made a great play, the wife jumped in exhilaration while the husband dropped his head in sorrow. The quality of athleticism of each play on either team was irrelevant to how each reacted. This story is relatively easy to decipher. Each spouse feels loyal to their school. They went there, have four fond years of experiences and many more alumni memories. As a resident of Charlotte, NC, I was struck at how the events of the last week were interpreted and experienced differently divided largely by racial lines.
It is possible, firstly, to experience an event emotionally different than another person as described earlier with the couple. It is possible for a police officer to experience the same interaction differently than a suspect. It is possible for people watching that interaction to emotionally and intellectual interpret it differently just as the couple looked at a football play and one saw their team with a great catch while the other only saw their defender make a horrible play. The lesson in all this is to recognize that few of us see things not as they are … but from where we are … emotionally.
This week, as you process your interactions with other people, pay attention to the body of emotions that you bring to that interaction. Push yourself to understand the emotional context of others in that interaction. Finally, ask yourself how a totally independent person would process the same experience. You will likely get three different perspectives … and be the better for it.