Listening And Thinking

There are so many things to be divided about lately.  From political ideology, to social justice issues, to how to handle a pandemic, we are at no lack of things to be divided by.  Yet, while it’s easy to become hardened in our thinking, based on our own beliefs and experience, I think all this division also provides an excellent opportunity to understand how others view these things.  If we’re willing to listen to them and think about what they say.

It’s easy to reject someone who’s thoughts are different from ours, without even considering how their experiences might have shaped the way they see things.  I’m not saying you have to embrace thinking that is totally untethered from reality.  (That’s a discussion for someone else’s blog.)  However, if we can actually listen to another person, without feeling we have to defend our position, we gain great insight into WHY they think the way they do.  We still may not agree with their thinking, but at least we have a greater understanding of how they came to think what they do.  Who knows, what we learn through listening to them might even cause our own thinking to be changed.

A lot of folks broadcast their opinion, solicited or not, under the guise that, “I just want to get other people to think.”  That’s nice, but the question that always comes to mind when I hear that statement (or find myself saying it) is, “That’s great, but are you willing to think as well?”

We need to take a look at ourselves in the figurative mirror.  If we’re not willing to consider a different perspective, or to see an issue from someone else’s point of view, then we should stop expecting others to consider our perspective and point of view.  How can we tell others that they need to think about what we have to say, when we ourselves are unwilling to extend that same courtesy to them?

Different Backgrounds Different Outlook

Here’s something we all know, but that I often forget… we don’t all have the same background and experiences shaping how we view ourselves and the world.

I can too easily assume that others have similar backgrounds and experiences as me.  That assumption is an easy connection to another equally false assumption; that what I would do or how I would think in a situation is how others should think.  That’s simply not true. 

Our experiences and backgrounds shape how we interpret what we see in the world, so it’s obvious that those with differing experiences would see things different that I would, and vice versa.

I like to frequently remind myself about this so that I don’t look up one day and realize that I’ve turned into a cranky old man, simply because I assume that the problem with everyone is that they don’t see the world the same way I do.

On The Other Side

“What’s it like on the other side of me?”  ~ Pastor Amy

During the sermon at church last week, one of our pastors referenced this question that she often asks herself in relation to what it’s like for others to interact with her.  I though it was a great question I should start asking myself!

We all know what it’s like to be us.  We’re aware of our opinions, our values, and what we think.  However, are we aware of how those opinions come across when we’re talking to others?  Are we aware of possible no verbal signals, attitudes, tones of voice, judgement, or perceptions we may not mean to send, that others experience when communicating with us?

Pastor Amy’s question causes me to think about how I treat others (intentionally or unintentionally) when communicating with them.  It reminds me that communication is so much more than just words.

There Should Be A Website For That

Wal-Mart shoppers often get a bad rap.  There are websites out there that show pictures and behaviors of what some people think are stereotypical Wal-Mart shoppes.  However, I had a couple experiences last Saturday that shatters the typical stereotypes you’d see on such sites.

First, I was on the isle looking at plastic storage bins.  (So many choices!)  As I was comparing a couple options, I could see a shopper out of my peripheral vision push their shopping cart down the main isle.  I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a voice saying, “You don’t want to buy that one, because the plastic handles break off.”  I turned and noticed that lady was pointing to one of the bins I was looking at on the shelf.

“Really?”  I said, in a tone that invited her to tell me more. She told me that she had bought that particular bin recently and after using it for a short timeframe the handles had both broken off.  I told her I which plastic bin I was considering, as I pointed to its location on the shelf.  She said that one would be a much better choice.   

After grabbing the bin, I headed to the pet section where I was looking for some litter box solutions for our cats.  I had a couple of products in my hand when I heard another voice to my right.  “I just bought that one, and it’s really good.”  I turned to see another lady pointing to one of the products in my hand.  “Oh, really?  So, you like this one?”  I said, as I held up the product she was pointing to.  She asked if I minded a recommendation, to which I responded, “For sure!  What have you got?”. 

She told me about her recent purchase and how it has been working well for her cats.  We talked for a few minutes about some other options, and she bid me “good luck”. 

I think it was so great, in light of all the division and discord between people these days, that each of these ladies decided to offer their assistance to me for no other reason than to see that I made a good purchase. 

There should be a website to showcases people like that!

The Lens You Look Through

I was talking with a friend at the gym this week about working from home.  While there are a number of positives, the biggest negative for me is not having the face-to-face contact with people.  Sure, there are a lot of alternatives, like instant messaging and video calls, but they don’t quite measure up to the experience of an in-person interaction.

My friend agreed, but also mentioned how for her grand kids, video conversations are what they’re use to, and are more common for them than face-to-face conversations.  She also mentioned her grandkids are growing up with Face Time and other video chat tools, and see these types of interactions as normal as we would see an in-person visit from our grand parents back in the day.

That was an interesting reminder to me about how differently we all look at the world through the lens of our own experience.  What may seem mainstream to me, could be unusual to others, and vice versa.  And that’s ok!  We all have different life experiences that shape our lenses.

I think it’s important to be mindful f this in our interactions with others.  It’s easy to assume everybody sees the world through the same lens as I do, but that’s simply not true.  When I take time to listen to others, I gain a better understanding of the lens they view the world through.  If I listen close enough, I can even understand how their lens was formed.

I’m thankful we aren’t all the same.  While that might make some things easier, it would certainly be less interesting to live in a world where everyone looked through the same lens as me.

Slowing Down

I’ve been working on learning to play the electric bass part of the song Far Cry from the band Rush recently.  It’s a quick tempo song with some cool rhythmic elements that I think sound really cool.  One thing that became painfully obvious when I started learning to play the song was that I would have to slow the tempo way down, if I have any hopes of mastering it.

When I stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense.  I can’t look at a challenging song and play it perfectly at the same tempo on my first attempt.  There are note progressions, fingering, and rhythms that all need to be discerned and practiced at a slower pace in order to gain an understanding of how they all fit together within the song.  Once those elements are understood individually, I can then integrate them together as I begin to play parts of the song.  Albeit still at a slower tempo.

This slowness feels clunky and awkward.  What I really want to do is pick up the bass and play the tune like a pro on the first or second attempt.  However, that’s not the way mastery of a topic works.  Mastery requires that we start out slow as we begin the work of obtaining knowledge and understanding.  From there we can begin to apply this knowledge and steadily increase our pace. 

Here is where I think most people give up pursing a goal.  They see the talent in a musician, athlete, or some other person that has slowed down and put in the time to achieve mastery and think that this person must have been “born with it” or is “gifted”.  In fact, what they are seeing is this person’s reward for having slowed down and spent the time in that slow and clunky stage. 

What’s lost on many of us is that we too can be considered “talented” or “gifted” if we’re willing to put in the required time in the slow and clunky stage.

The Kindness of Strangers

“Be sure you check the expiration date on that.” 

As my wife and I were picking up some groceries in a town we were visiting last week, this was the warning, from an unfamiliar voice, I was greeted with as I reached for the container of yogurt.  I turned toward the voice and noticed it was one of the ladies who, presumably, lived in the town we were in.  I wasn’t sure why she was warning us, and I was a little skeptical as to why she would approach us in the first place.  It turns out her motives were pure.

She continued, “I bought some yogurt here a couple weeks ago, and when I got home, I noticed it was way past the expiration date!  This place is good for produce, and a couple other items, but other than that, it’s horrible… and their prices are too #@$%& high!!” 

“Really?!  That sucks!!” was my emphatic reply.

She mentioned that we didn’t look like we were from there and asked if we were visiting.  I told her that indeed, we were visiting the area, and were just out picking up a few things.  Upon hearing this, she told us which grocery store we should visit.  One that had much better prices.  She even gave us detailed directions to the aforementioned store.  We chatted for a few moments, paid for our produce, and followed her directions to the other store.

I’m glad we did!  The prices were indeed lower.  In fact, we saved $2 on the yogurt alone!  In total, she saved us about $20 on our grocery bill.

I was grateful for the kindness of a strange, who reached out to offer assistance for no other reason than to help someone out… that, and perhaps to sock it to a store she so obviously disdained.

To me, she is a memorable example of what it looks like when one member of society is looking out for the well-being of another.  The world needs more of that kind of caring.

May we all do and do likewise.

A Trip Back In Time

I felt like I went back in time for a moment this week… and I loved it!

My wife and I were walking on a popular beach in Oregon, when a couple we were passing held out their cell phone and pleasantly asked, “Would you mind taking our picture?”  I use to hear (and even ask) that question all the time on vacations, hikes or at any other outing with a view I’d like to capture with me in it.  Now, with cell phones and selfie sticks, it seems no one ever asks that question any more.  At least not until last week.

My answer to the couple… “ABSOLUTELY!!”

I miss being asked that question.  It’s always been fun to share a moment like that with someone, as you help them preserve a memory.  With all the options available that remove the need to interact, it was nice to be invited to share the moment with them.

I hope they enjoy the photo as much as I enjoyed taking it. 

Going Old-School

I like sending hand written notes to people, because no one does that anymore.  I also enjoy when recipients tell me how much they enjoyed receiving the note and the kind words.  It’s a small way to make a positive impact on someone’s day.

I use to despise writing notes because I never thought I had enough to say to fill up a whole card.  What I’ve discovered is you don’t have to write a lot to have an impact.  Two or three heart-felt sentences is enough to brighten someone’s day.  And if that doesn’t seem like it will fill the card, then write a little bigger than normal!  J

In a time when flashy new high tech is ubiquitous, an old-school hand written note is the perfect way to uniquely let someone know you’re thinking about them, and that you care.

Let Them Know

I had the best experience at an auto dealership service department that I’ve ever had this week.  The service person that I was in contact with was Phil and he was what made the experience so great! 

For starters, he called me early on the morning of my visit to let me know exactly what they would be doing to my car.  He also gave me a price of what the worst-case scenario, from a cost standpoint, would be.  What appreciated most about Phil was the customer service.  The way he described everything and communicated with me instilled trust. 

After talking with him a couple of times on the phone, and when I picked up my car at the end of the day, I got them impression that his main goal was to ensure that my car was properly taken care of and that I had a good customer experience.  I also got them impression by observing him interact with others, that this is the only kind of customer service he knows how to give.

As I was talking to him before I left, I told him how much I appreciated working with him that day and what a good experience I had. 

I think it’s important to let people know when they do a great job and give them with positive words of sincere appreciate.  I know I enjoy getting positive feedback.  My guess is others do as well.