Complete The Picture

Thursday 5 September, 2013

I attended a wedding last weekend. It was a wonderful occasion, as weddings so often are, and for two days afterwards I met and reflected on the whole event with some of the protagonists. We reminisced and replayed our favourite scenes, sharing our highlights and filling in missing pieces of the matrimonial jigsaw. The bride and groom even delayed their honeymoon so they could indulge in more of it, reliving the experience again and again, extending and adding to their memories by gathering their guests’ stories and recounting their own.

It was fun. We looked at photos and exchanged perspectives. There was joy and laughter all over again. It was an extension of the day; an appreciation of the people, the occasion and of love. Everyone at the wedding had bathed in the sunshine and the beauty of the day, connected for a brief time by two special people whose commitment to each other will last a lifetime. Talking through it afterwards added even more depth to the experience.

In the context of a celebration such an exercise is an enjoyable process. With respect to personal development it can also be fun, but it is more than that. It becomes a worthwhile endeavour when we seek others’ input and offer our respective views on a shared experience, because we are able to complete the picture, adding different perspectives on the same event and making fuller our interaction.

If you and I share a conversation or an undertaking, when it’s over, each of us has only half the information available. In order to complete the picture I need to know how you experienced the interaction. What were you thinking and feeling prior to it, or during it, and what is your perception of what happened? That way I can fine tune my own perceptions. Maybe we are both reacting unconsciously to each other’s moods and responses. It’s possible that you sense my anxiety or nervousness but misinterpret it as your own. Until we check, there is no way of knowing.

Faced with incomplete information we tend to make assumptions about how our behaviour affects our environment or about why others behave they way they do. When that happens our thoughts quickly take us a road of conjecture and we soon forget that the whole train of thought is based solely on an assumption. The assumption becomes our reality and we begin finding justifications for it. See the post, ‘How Easily The Mind Goes To Work’, for a fine example of how this can happen.

If you notice yourself making assumptions about your interactions, stop, go back and, where it’s appropriate, speak to the people involved and get their side of the story. In the absence of information from others, look as closely as you can at your own process of thought, feeling, word and action. There is more information there than you realise. Gather it and go some way to completing the picture.

Related posts: Olive Oil & Serving Spoons | How Easily The Mind Goes To Work | Gathering Evidence | Controlled Experiments | Calibrate The Machine

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