Getting to the Heart of It: Changing Perceptions and Deepening Relationships
Written by: Jennifer Barrows
We’ve all seen it by now: that viral dress! What color is it anyway?
Fierce and passionate arguments have popped up all over the internet about what color it really is; there is even a scientific article explaining why one person sees blue and black and another person sees gold and white. For the record, the dress appeared blue and black to me the first time I saw it, but the next day, it appeared white and gold! What? How can it be both?
It’s all about perception.
Have you ever had a discussion about a topic with a friend and realized half way through the conversation that she sees the issue in a completely different light? Well, that’s what is happening with this dress and it has spawned two very distinct camps of people.
It is kind of like Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle Book. In this story, the Yooks and the Zooks fight over the correct way to eat their toast. The Yooks eat their toast butter-side-up, while the Zooks eat theirs butter-side-down. A war between the two societies escalates all because of the difference in perception everyone has about the correct way to eat toast.
So, will a war be waged over “the dress?” Probably not, but let’s shrink this down to a more personal level.
Relationships are (hopefully) built on honesty. Think about the relationship you have with your best friend; you both have great intentions for the relationship. Is it important for you to both see eye to eye on everything? Not necessarily! Your best friend may see “the dress” as blue and black, while you see it as gold and white. Does that mean you should end the friendship? No way! In fact, your differences in perception can actually deepen your friendship.
My best friend and I met in high school and our paths have intertwined and drifted all over the place ever since. During high school, we were inseparable, but college sent us in different directions. After that, we would lose touch and find each other again and again. One of the things I value most about her is her different perspective. I can run an idea past her and she will shed light on a ton of angles I never saw. We can count on each other to offer our different opinions in an honest and open way. Has our friendship blown up now and then? Sure, but being able to understand that her perspectives on things may be different than mine is one of the things that keeps our friendship going.
It is important to listen to the people in your life and – even if you don’t agree with them – try and see their side.
Here are a few ways that being open-minded can enrich your relationships:
1. Welcoming the Unknown. When you open your mind to new ways of thinking and to the perceptions of the people in your life, it can lead to adventures that bring you closer. For example, if your friend is an avid rock climber but you have never tried it, being open to experiencing the unknown can introduce you to something that could become a passion.
2. Keeping the Peace. Imagine you are having an argument with someone. You know you are right, but your friend also knows she is right. The argument escalates until one of you throws your hands in the air and gives up. How does that feel?
Chances are, you are still fuming and so is your friend. What if you were to say, “Hey, I can see that you feel really strongly about this. Tell me why you feel that way.” If you remain open to your friend’s opinion, you will probably learn something about the topic you are arguing over and more about your friend. Opening the conversation like that leads to mutual respect and deepens your relationship.
3. Learn To See Things In A Different Light. Just like when I thought for sure “the dress” was black and blue but saw it as gold and white the next day, you can see things about people in your life and in the world differently.
Every day, when I go onto Facebook, I see long political threads where people argue on and on. Sometimes people get nasty with each other! Come on, these are people on your “friend” list! Why not try to see the other person’s side of things? If you are liberal, just listen to your conservative friend (preferably before calling him a jerk!). If you really take the time to care about someone’s opinion before formulating what you are going to say in your own defense, you could learn something new.
You don’t have to agree with them, but just be open to the fact that people have differences and allow yourself to learn where these differences come from, without judgement. Perhaps, instead of angrily slashing people from your friends list, you will gain a deeper respect for the people you interact with.
4. See The Bigger Picture. The person you are arguing with may have formed her opinions because of life circumstances or experiences she has lived through. Dig a little deeper to get past the emotions of the argument and find out why your friend has these opinions; you might gain some understanding and become more compassionate.
Once you are able to do these things with the people in your life, you can start to change your perspective on things happening in the world. By gaining compassion for people and their situations, we can all work to end some of the world’s biggest problems.
Imagine if everyone could celebrate the differences among people and find common ground. Instead of merely wishing for world peace, we can start at a personal level, celebrating those close to us. Perhaps as we begin to celebrate our differences, we will send out a ripple effect to the world.
Jennifer Barrows is an Empowered Single Mom, Writer and Certified Health Coach, practicing north of Boston. She received her health coaching certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in December of 2013. Her coaching practice focuses on helping guide women through life transitions, using food and lifestyle upgrades to improve their moods and outlook.
She has written for local newspapers and just published a book, Still Together: A Single Mom’s Guide To Healing After Divorce.
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