post written by: Marc Chernoff

It’s Important That We See Things Differently


We See Things Differently

The Same Experience

Last night, my buddy Anthony and I went out to a local bar for some drinks. Once inside, Anthony immediately saw a girl he was interested in. “Watch this,” he said.

He sat down at the bar next to her, smiled, and quickly introduced himself.  But before he could say another word, she asked, “What happened to your eye?”

“Oh, this,” Anthony said as he pointed to his black eye.  “It’s just a small battle wound from a triumphant, athletic victory.”

“Oh,” she replied. “In what sports game?”

“It’s not a game, it’s a battle,” he said with a smirk on his face. “I put my life on the line out there.”

“Oh,” she replied again.  And although Anthony’s extravagant self-proclamations of being a backyard football champ have worked before, they didn’t work at all on this particular girl.  So she turned toward me. “And what do you do for fun?” she asked.

“The same thing, I guess,” I said.

“You battle?”

“Well, I think of football more as a philosophical engagement.  I mean… when I’m competing against others, I try to deduce a series of logical next steps and then take action based on my calculations of weight, technique, past experience, and my gut instincts about how my opponents are engaging in the game.”

She laughed. “With all that extra time spent thinking, you must get clobbered out there.”

“Actually, he’s one of the most athletic players I know,” Anthony interjected, halfheartedly.

“So, how can one of you battle while the other philosophizes?” she asked. “Those are two completely different things.”

“Actually, they’re not,” I said. “Just different interpretations of the same experience.”

“Yeah… Marc has had one too many adult beverages,” Anthony quickly intervened. “Sorry about that.”

Then he directed me away from the girl and toward the other end of the bar. “I know you’re married, but I’m trying to make progress with the ladies tonight.  Don’t ever spew that philosophy crap again,” he said. “All it does is scare them away.”

I looked back at the girl from the opposite end of the bar.  We made eye contact and she smiled and winked.

All of Our Lives

In our daily lives, we share common experiences with friends, coworkers, lovers, and complete strangers we cross on the street.  But these experiences are rarely as similar as we expect them to be.

A man and a woman may share a moment.  To her, it’s a gesture of romantic interest, but to him it’s just a friendly, intelligent conversation.  A mother may discipline her teenage son.  To the mother, it’s good parenting, but to her son, it’s oppression.  Two Web 2.0 startup founders may work tirelessly to design a new social networking platform.  To one, the project is about helping people communicate more effectively. To the other, it’s about breaking new technological ground.

We all have different needs, different perspectives, and thus different means for understanding and describing our experiences.  This is why we rarely have the same exact interpretation of a shared experience.

These differences are often cited as the reason relationships don’t work. “We just weren’t meant to be together,” a woman might say.  “My mom doesn’t understand,” a teenager might say.  “Our vision doesn’t seem to be compatible,” one startup founder might say about the other.

But that’s just an easy out. And it’s oftentimes dead wrong.  Such differences can be precisely the reason relationships do work.

If that woman wasn’t initially disappointed by that man, they probably wouldn’t be business partners and good friends today.  If that teenager wasn’t disciplined and nurtured by his mother, he may have decided to get into the car with his drunken friends the night they wrapped it around a telephone pole.  If one startup founder didn’t focus on technology and the other didn’t focus on people, their vision and their work would be far more limited.

It’s important that we see things differently.  Because when our different visions eventually mesh together…

Positive change transpires in all of our lives.

Photo by: Carlo Nicora

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16 Comments

  • One of my friends has chosen “perspective” to be her theme for this year. It has been amazing to watch her actively question and analyze perspectives from those around her as she attempts to realize that her way is not the only way.

    She has a whole new awareness and appreciation for the world around her, which has helped her in business as well as personal situations.

    Don’t you just love people who are always working to become better? (Notice I said “working” and not “trying” - big difference.) Inspiring.

  • Hi Marc.

    This is true about the various perspectives we bring to what we do. There was an article idea I had in mind related to this, about how we see only what we have in our minds. A window repairmen sees the windows on people’s houses when driving by, while a gardener sees the types of plants that are planted, while an architect sees the style of buildings in the area. I have many more examples that come to mind.

    These allow us all to bring something to the table. If we all saw the same things, it would be a boring mess. Everyone would wanting the exact same things, which there wouldn’t be enough of. Perspective gives us that great variety.

    Your intro story was entertaining.

  • Nice post. One of the first rules of psychology is that everyone is different. Plus, the girl would have chosen you because you actually gave an answer truthfully - you didn’t try hard like your friend. Woman can always pick up a vibe from a man who knows his view.

  • Thanks for sharing this post…it really struck a chord in a very good way.

  • Wonderful inspiring post!
    I have personally tried to imagine and analyze situations by putting myself in other people’s shoes and in doing so I have been amazed to find how in any situation more than one people or opinions could be absolutely right :)

    Thank you for sharing the beautiful thought of adopting a positive change in our lives :D

    Cheers!!

  • @All:

    No doubt, it’s all about perspective.

    Thanks for the added insight.

    ;-)

  • Interesting but true! We all have different perspective on life, based on our past experience. If two people saw someone slam door, one could think “she must have a bad day, let me be nice to her”, and other could think “What a jerk she is, like there is no one around, let me be jerk like her”.

  • We are created with 2 ears and only 1 mouth so that we would be able to listen more, before we speak. Same with seeing things in different persepective, i think the only way we dcan understand other peoples situations, problems, or whatever circumstances they are in starts once we learn how to listen to them. Before we express our own perspective. In that way we are learning to put ourselves in their situation, and understand their pointsof views in life. Nothing annoys me more than a person who bash other people just because they wanted other people to do things their way. We have to learn to adjust and learn to see things in a different perspective. Thanks.

  • Thanks for this remarkable post. My view is that before we can achieve all this, we must have respect for one another. No matter where we come from. Race background, tribe, continental differences, rich, poor, in every branch. I believe if we have respect among ourselves it will help us in understanding and appreciating others views.

  • Great article, Marc. It’s very difficult for many people to see the value in personal differences. But its the stuff that makes life so awesome. I say embrace diversity. We can see the differences and find value in them rather than assuming our way is the only way. Life would be such a bore without variety.

  • Awesome post. Thank you so much. You actually gave me a different and kinder perspective on how I view my “world” right now as opposed to how others see it. I agree with Nea. Thank you. You have no idea how much this helps me - in a lot of lovely ways.

  • Over the weekend I had to force feed my three year old son. He has had the flu and lost his appetite and then he developed a block around eating anything at all.

    Sitting on top of a three year old and forcing mushed avocado and honey down his throat felt a whole lot like sadistic oppression. I shudder to think how he might remember the experience.

    From my side it was a question of necessity. I am responsible for his health and well-being and I love him to much to see him starving himself to death.

    This post states the idea of individual perspectives in common experiences very well.

  • LIFE is a precious gift,so we need to respect it, protect it, treasure it. Love yourself..

  • It’s good that we see things from different perspectives because all things are multi dimensional. The key to understand your partners perspective in a relationship is open, honest communication. Too often one either doesn’t know how or is afraid of being mis-understood to be honest about how they see things or possibly has a hidden agenda. Love and trust need to be felt and believed by both to make it work. This is true with nations as well as couples.

  • Choice of words is almost as important as tonality of voice

  • It’s about wanting what you have.

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