Not long ago, I was awakened at 3:23am by what I thought was one of the dogs uncharacteristically playing with his squeaky toy. Turns out the “toy” was a live chipmunk, a gift from Daisy the half-tailed cat.
To make a short story of 3 minutes even shorter, I caught the chipmunk and released it out the front door. It was the 30 seconds before which taught me a lesson in perspective.
I had grabbed the chipmunk as it jumped out from a TV stand. Having had practice (it is not the first live chipmunk gift from the cat), I’ve gotten used to grabbing the little fellas. Usually I have leather work gloves, but not that morning.
Once I grabbed the chipmunk, it bit my thumb several times, once making a puncture. The discussion in my head said, “Hey, got him! OUCH! I guess he’s not hurt. OUCH! Must get him outside NOW! OUCH!”
I held on, knowing that to release him would lead to another chase through the house with me, at least one dog, and the cat all in hot pursuit. His odds of survival would diminish with such a chase.
For his sake, I had to hold on to him until he was outside.
From his perspective, this was a matter of life and death. The cat looked like death. The dog looked like death. And I looked like death.
There is no way to explain to a scared chipmunk that while it really was in a life or death scramble, I was not the threat. I was the rescue.
So what does this have to do with human communication? Everything.
How we see the world can be as automatic as the view that chipmunk had at 3:23am. Maybe we don’t see eminent risk of death. It may be something as simple as how smart (or stupid) we think someone is or what we should say to someone we just met. Thousands of thoughts, many of them not really considered, just accepted.
We may be threatened by people or situations that may actually be great blessings, if we can simply find a way to consider the situation long enough to overcome our automatic thoughts.
Perspective is hard, even harder under pressure. Yet, when we learn to see with perspective and with empathy, opportunities greet us that others miss.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. You can email Glenn directly at email@example.com.
Glenn is also the founder, and Senior Consultant, of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2014. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111