A friend stopped by my office a few days ago and related a situation his family was going through. After sharing what their problem was, he spent some time explaining why someone did not behave the way he thought they should. Not only explaining the primary reason why but embellishing his explanation with outside events that help lead him to a conclusion that more action was necessary immediately.
I proceeded to ask some questions as to the validity of his perceptions. His answers were “I am not sure”. So we proceeded to call a subject matter expert that could provide some objective perspective on his larger issues. Only to find that my friend’s expectations were totally wrong. That the situation his family faced, most likely will work out but would require both patience and more time.
In a meeting I attended, we were going over data analytics with respect to our eCommerce site and our social media efforts. Some things did not seem to add up. When asked why they believed their explanations, they proceeded to answer the question by simply casting their efforts in a positive light. Sadly, there was no objectivity or new information in their answer.
Over and over again we explain things. We constantly look for explanations to help make sense of our world. They always make sense. We always believe they are accurate. Never understanding they are merely stories we create.
If there is one major change in my approach to life over the last few years, it is that I rarely accept what I hear at first. There is a pause in my mind that leads me to question if any other explanations are possible. Are there inconsistencies in what I hear or is there too much consistency in what is shared? Do I sense bias or ego in a person’s explanation? Too much emotion in their storytelling? Have they spent enough time going deeper into an issue or situation? Would I come up with the same explanation? Is there a different perspective worth considering? Is there too much generality or emotion and not enough detail? Would I have approached the situation differently? Where does their information come from that leads them to their conclusions?
All of this questioning is not to feed my ego by making me feel good. It’s in understanding that life is more nuanced and messy than our urge to simplify makes it. Where many things are possible and far less certain than most people embrace while understanding there are many things of which I have little knowledge.
This approach lends itself to my creative side. Willing to embrace possibility before settling in on certainty. Where I find clarity of thought expanded when multiple perspectives are first embraced. It is also where I find more possibilities revealed.
All of us struggle to make sense of life. Explanations and our storytelling are just a few of the ways we work through this challenge. Being aware of their shortcomings gives us an opportunity to build from who we are to who we can become. With time, practice, patience, and effort many things are possible.