On Wednesday we talked about ‘Otherworld’ and the idea that the world revolved around more than just me.
And we talked about the fact that this kind of thinking makes it easy for us to misinterpret people’s motives and intentions and end up assuming that people are being ‘deliberate and malicious’ far more frequently than they actually are.
Having identified the problem, now we have to figure out how to get to a solution.
And I think that the solution is to assume that there’s probably an explanation for the behaviour, and then get curious and see if we can figure it out!
We get curious by putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes – by imagining for a few moments what the world would look like if it revolved around them. Around their schoolwork, their sensory reality, their relational challenges, their energy levels, their mental health capacity.
We get curious by finding a way into the other person’s perspective – by imagining for a few moments what the world would look like if your brain processed information differently, if you had a minority skin-colour, if you were the youngest or the oldest, if you could only function sitting or laying down, or if you were hypersensitive to the emotions of the people around you.
We get curious by asking questions and then listening intently to the answers. We’re not actually going to be able to guess all of the reasons why people do the things they do. So we need to take the time to ask them how they’re doing, watch their body language, learn their ‘tells’ for how they sound and look and act when they’re stressed and tired and hungry. Listening holistically like this will give us substantially more information to work with as we seek to understand the people around us.
And finally, we need to recognize that sometimes there are reasons, but we won’t get to know what they are. Some of their reasons are private to them. Some of their reasons are incredibly complex. Some of their reasons they don’t yet know themselves. Regardless of whether we get clear answers or not, holding the idea that there is a reason allows us to take a deep breath and offer grace, gentleness and compassion in response to what’s going on around us – which helps us cope with the tough moments at least as much as it helps the other person!