Reality Check …


Five Senses - Creative Commons lic. Allan-Hermann PoolEither you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you. 

Alex Haley

Sounds good, doesn’t it?   Very hard-nosed and focused … the message appears that you need to deal with reality or reality will eat you for breakfast.

However, I wonder if we don’t need to go a little deeper with this one.

How often have we head this phrase?  “You need a reality check.” – usually delivered in a slight superior or snide tone, with a sideways glance that communicates signficant disdain for whatever has just come forcefully out of my mouth.

I often find myself railing against some perceived issue or situation, while seeking comfort and validation from my wife, because that is her job. 

I do not always get what I believe I need, because she often sees the reality of the situation differently.  While somewhat irritating, the woman also makes a great point, by reminding me of one very important thing:  

MY REALITY IS NOT NECESSARILY ANOTHER’S REALITY …

So let’s talk about this “Reality” thing a little more.

Some people would say that only what you can tangibly sense is real … if you cannot see, smell, touch, hear, or taste something, it does not really exist.  Well, there goes most of the useful expressions of human emotion and existence.  Yes, you can hear an angry tone in someone’s voice or see their face get red, but you cannot tangibly sense the underlying emotion … you only get the symptoms.

KNOWING SOMEONE IS ANGRY IS NOT THE SAME AS UNDERSTANDING WHY THEY FEEL THAT ANGER …

Any approach which leaves out the emotional side of life seems incomplete.

Others might insist that reality is unique to each person … nobody else can see, feel, or experience exactly what you see, feel, and experience.   We do each live our lives ultimately by ourselves, hopefully in the company of loved others, but we still can only truly see with our own eyes.  We are what we bring to the table, and most of us have lived enough to have developed some sense of context for each situation, experience upon which to draw for understanding, and cultural underpinnings which offer guidance on what is “right” and what is “different”.  

Many different influences affect our personal perception of a reality. 

Does this mean that all of our experiences are unique and give no common ground for shared experience and understanding?   Of course not … but it does mean we need to work a bit harder to insure common understanding.  Of course, if the reality we are trying to cope with is truly ours alone, we need only worry about our understanding of that reality, right?   

Well, yes …unless others have a reason to be involved.  

When we address the reality of a thing with another, we need to have a shared understanding of that reality … We need to include those beloved family members, close friends, work colleagues, and others impacted by our understanding of that reality. 

Here are three helpful tips on how to make sure that your understanding of reality is mutual, at least to the point where you can interact with others around a shared understanding of that “reality”:

1)  EXPLAIN YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE REALITY …

We often assume that because we consciously recognize a thing, that our thinking around that thing is sound.  Sometimes the simple act of explaining not just WHAT or HOW, but WHY we perceive something in a certain way can be revelatory, both for us and for others.

… and sometimes you realize while you are talking that your perceptions may lack connection or logic, which is valuable information.

2)  CHECK OTHER’S PERCEPTION OF THAT REALITY …

This is essential to avoid the deadly assumption that you know what “reality” the other is perceiving.  In the same way we do not always question our own actions or beliefs, we make this same mistake when considering the perceptions of others. 

Until you have some direct knowledge of how another person is viewing something, you are just assuming you know what they see and think.

3)  ASK FOR CLARIFICATION AND CONTINUE TO DISCUSS …

This is the last step and it goes on forever.   As you learn to understand another’s view of reality, you should continue to share, discuss, and ask questions.  This serves both the purpose of deepening your understanding of them and insuring that as things progress, you do not miss a change or new angle.

Yes, this all takes more time, but is well worth it because the result is deep understanding, commonality, and if we are lucky, empathy.

Wondering why others can’t just see things the way I see them in the Heartland ….

John

Image:  Wikipedia via Allen-Hermann Pool – Creative Commons License

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