Let me recount how someone’s entire figure changed in my perception. No, unfortunately nothing exceptionally surreal happened, but I was thinking about trying to view customers in a less judgmental way when a customer was about take pictures of an art book in the store (it’s not allowed).
I let her know, and she quickly responded apologetically with pretty fast speech and some energetic gestures. We had a very short back-and-forth, but I felt an urge to reframe my mental image of her behavior, like noticing an error notification. I observed the woman’s behavior the way I would as a clinician, trying to characterize her expression and behavior as close to objectively as I can. She almost immediately changed. It wasn’t anything physical, her behavior, expression, presence just made sense. Suddenly, her energetic and rapid expression wasn’t a sign of anxiety at having been confronted by someone claiming authority, it was just fast, energetic behavior from someone who had a different behavioral association for her feelings and perceptions. It’s a roundabout but effective way of not making everything about you. It’s surprising how simple things get when you let them be themselves instead of what you want to call it. Why would it necessarily have anything to do with its observer?
Given the way I think about things, interactions like that making sense don’t happen a lot. I am misunderstood probably as often as I misunderstand others (which happens practically by the hour), and there are certainly a lot of people that appear to be walking self-contradictions or errors in judgement. It’s almost uncomfortable remembering how regularly we objectify and over-map conceptualizations and theories just to avoid complexity, but it’s reassuring that all it really took to remove that obstacle to understanding was being able to notice the projection, then check what the thing or person seems to be without it. Of course, understanding the contextual relationships of things like behavior and motivation helps, but the technical paradigms of understanding are as much monkey-bar playgrounds as they are the depression blanket of thoughts. Objectivity may not be possible to articulate, outside of mathematics perhaps, but unadulterated observation and contemplation can easily co-occur.
Featured Photo by ThisIsEngineering: https://www.pexels.com/photo/code-projected-over-woman-3861969/