“We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.”
– Anais Nin
As I have had the privilege of working with more and
more people, I have seen this principle in action again and again.
People come to me wondering why they are having a disagreement or
feeling over-criticized or wondering why some portion of their life
is so difficult.
When they look at their life factually–they think, “What do I have
to complain about compared to so many others who are dealing with
so much?” This type of self-comparison is not only useless, it is
self-destructive. Everything is relative. What is an obstacle to
one person might be an inspiration to another. Why? Because none of
us “see reality,” we only see the movie in our mind. Our collective
thoughts and experiences go with us everywhere and create the lens
through which we see every event and hear every comment.
We can’t turn off this filter that we bring to life. To turn if off
would make us robotic. Instead, we must remember that as we face
any event, we are facing it in the present, but we are often seeing
it through our past. When we come to a difficult juncture or
communication, it is important to anchor ourselves and be aware of
what past experiences are influencing our thoughts and opinion.
Let me give you an example. Let’s pretend for a moment that you
work for me. I come to you and say, “I am worried about this area
of our business. I need you to focus on improving X, Y and Z.” What
I have said is a very factual statement and a simple request. How
you hear what I have said, depends on the filter you are looking
through. If you are self-doubting of your performance you might
hear this, “I don’t think you are doing a good enough job, and I
really need you to ramp up your efforts.” If you have had a boss
that was unsupportive in the past, you might hear this, “Your work
just isn’t satisfactory. I don’t think you can do it.” Of course
neither of these statements are anywhere near what I said, but they
can still be what you hear. When you hear a statement like that,
you are likely to respond defensively. That would throw me off
guard, because what I actually said wasn’t anything to be defensive
about. You can see how this could quickly escalate into a
disagreement or misunderstanding.
Understanding that we bring this filter and lens to our
interactions is the first step in pausing it so that we can truly
hear what is being said to us.
Today, make a concerted effort to hear what is being said to you.
Hear the words without adding your own commentary. Watch how much
more clearly and effective your communications become with this
I stay present in the moment.