Context and Perspective: from should to is

The realization that others do not conform to your expectations is a big one. Along with that realization comes the fact that others do not see your world as you do, nor do you see their world as they do. And this affects how we interpret each other’s speech and actions.

Context: consider the relationship

Each interaction we have with another contains an element of relationship and an element of content. We interpret their speech or behaviour in terms of who they are to us and who we are to them. The same actions or speech from a stranger on the bus will be taken quite differently than if they were from someone we know. Consider your reaction to your sibling calling you a name for what they consider you sitting too close to them. This would feel different than if that same comment or action came from one of your parents, your best friend, a colleague, a neighbour or an acquaintance. The content is the same; the relationship contributes to the perspective. Context can influence your interpretation of the comment. Consider whether the comment was said in jest, whether there was ample space to avoid sitting too close to someone else or the speaker was in a bad mood to begin with.

Perspective: consider the source

Relationships go both ways. A comment or action from someone you consider superior carries more impact than from someone who doesn’t matter that much to you. Consider the source, and they will too. A snide remark from someone you admire hurts much more than a rude comment from someone you don’t care about or respect.  As well, a snide remark from someone that you consider yourself close to also hurts more than a rude comment from someone you don’t know. 

Putting it all together

Our interactions come wrapped in perspective and context. Based on this, our expectations imply that the other person should behave in a certain way. We expect due consideration from someone close to us – usually the same consideration we give them. There are times when these people will not live up to our expectations, and this hurts. Unfortunately, this is where we can get stuck — mulling over what we or they should have or could have done or said. A way out of this loop is to keep in mind the context and perspective, and relationship and content elements of those interactions.

Moving from should to is

Our expectations of others come wrapped in shoulds –how they should speak to us, and how they should behave towards us. Accepting that others do not or cannot always live up to those shoulds, is the first step in the move towards Is. 

That the other person said or did something outside of expectations, is what it is. They said what they said or did what they did. The way we learn from this situation and move forward is to accept the way it happened and adjust our expectations for future encounters, or consider actions which will influence how they behave towards us in the future – choices.

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