Starting the New Year off with a fantastic book – Tom Peters’ “Little Big Things“. Came across this passage that I think is a brilliant reminder for our day-to-day interactions and relationships:
That other person is….always….98% hidden from your view.
Reminds me of a story that the late Stephen R. Covey used to share. He was traveling in a subway, a man gets in with his two sons, the sons are running all over the place bothering people, being like little boys often are, but in a way that is noticeably disturbing to the other commuters. These boys were wild, running up and down the aisles, making the passage very disruptive to the other people who happened to be on the train at the same time.
The young boy’s behaviour continued and even grew worse, to the point that Covey found the passage almost unbearable. Finally he got irritated enough to ask the father why he didn’t do something to control his kids. He felt that by intervening he was not only creating a more pleasant state for the other passengers, but that he was helping this father to understand his paternal responsibilities in a public setting. The father replied, “We just got back from the hospital where their mother died. I don’t know how to handle it and I guess they don’t either.”
At that point Covey states that he had never felt so small. This was because reality was hidden from his view. The way that he subjectively interpreted the situation (a negligent father) was not in accordance with reality, and had he known the real context, perhaps he would have given pause before his well-meaning intervention.
Each day we interact with a variety of people. When we encounter someone who is rude, or perhaps even indifferent, it can often induce a negative change in our emotional state. However, if we remember that this other person is 98% hidden from our view, we can take pause before we are offended or upset by how we are received. That other person may be dealing with the most severe trial of their life. These tiny shifts in our perception of others can pay off greatly in our we feel each day.