Like the image above, there is a distortion between how we see ourselves and others. This distortion explains why and how we misunderstand each other so quickly. For example, close colleagues tell me when I focus intensely on a work project, I appear less approachable. This appearance does not reflect how I feel, but this misperception results in others not approaching me. If this misconception continues and I become aware of it, I might counter it by expending energy and changing how I appear. A mask or persona develops to counter the perception that I am unapproachable. This forced change creates complex interactions as each attempt to connect and be understood by the other.
Now, think about the language or the words we use to describe ourselves, relationships, beliefs, feelings, and actions. You might get the picture of why communication can go sideways so quickly when it comes to being understood. When we express our beliefs or meaning through images, art, myths, or other symbols, we often enter a kind of transcendent world of relating. These representations often transcend a spoken language. In Bill Moyer's interview with Joseph Campbell, author of "The Hero With A Thousand Faces," Campbell says, "The best things can't be told, because they transcend thought. The second best are misunderstood because those are the thoughts that are supposed to refer to that which can't be thought about. The third best is what we talk about." This difficulty in language, interpretation, and our intended meaning complicates our communications when describing something to someone that seems out of their grasp to understand.
From my own experience, being raised within a Baptist religious tradition for most of my childhood, I began to question certain assumptions or dogma within that religious tradition. My views and interpretation of previously associated meanings had shifted as I studied and gained more life experience. This shift in my understanding of particular meanings of religious expressions was not quite so literal anymore. The change in how I interpreted these terms created more misunderstandings with peers from my past religious community.
As a result of appreciating how complex communication is, together with my desire to connect and understand others, I now focus on being curious about other's beliefs, meanings, differences, and experiences. This overall shift in perspective and awareness of how easily distortions in communication can occur have resulted in being much more tolerant and less reactive to perceived differences. While I don't believe this perspective alone will rid us of misunderstanding, being curious rather than reactive has proven transformative and provides a much bigger window to view, understand and connect with others.
Since this is an obvious beginning to Phil-osphy, please visit this site again.