Relationships are precarious. People are volatile. A friendship, marriage, or business arrangement can be dissolved with just a few words.
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are," wrote Anais Nin. When a dispute arises, neither party can see things from the other's perspective. Literally. As David McRaney writes on his blog, You Are Not So Smart:
"The brain scans of a person shown statements which oppose their political stance show the highest areas of the cortex, the portions responsible for providing rational thought, get less blood until another statement is presented which confirms their beliefs. Your brain literally begins to shut down when you feel your ideology is threatened."
Your brain shuts down when presented with ideas contrary to your own. The experiment referenced was based on political stances, but it seems likely the physical reaction is the same for issues of religion, race, sexuality, and lifestyle choices. When my husband and I almost split up over a broken doorknob, I can assure you neither of us were experiencing proper blood flow to our frontal cortexes.
Even when we attempt to see things from someone else's point of view, we're limited by our own perspective. We could make a million guesses as to what somebody else thinks and still be wrong. I am reminded of the end of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird", when Scout walks Boo Radley to his front door then turns around and surveys her neighborhood from his porch. She imagines the events of the past year as Boo might have seen them.
"Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough."
You might be able to walk up to a person's front door, but you can never see out of that door the way they do. Most of us are so busy looking out our own front door we don't even think about observing our neighborhood from our neighbor's porch. But what view are we missing? Boo, the neighborhood boogey man, turned out to be a "real nice" guy.
"Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them," Atticus said, right again.
Relationships are precious. People are valuable. A friendship, marriage, or business arrangement can be solidified with just a few words.
"Would you rather be right or happy?" Buddha