Are You Missing The Bigger Picture?
Shakespeare said: “Brevity is the soul of wit and tediousness.”
Actually, he said:
“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.”
This is an example of quoting out of context, a practice you’ve probably seen employed by the media these days.
Could you be doing it, too?
The answer is YES, in ways you’re not even aware of.
Did any of these ever happen to you?
– You tell your parents about the decision you have to make. They start advising what you should and shouldn’t do, what to choose and what to avoid. Why do they have to interfere all the time? Why can’t they let you make your own choices? Can’t they see you’re not a child anymore?
– Somebody informs you that your friend said you were rude and insensitive when handling a difficult issue. You feel hurt, it’s like she doesn’t even know you. You decide to shun her and reject any further contact. You miss her, but you’re telling yourself you’re better off alone than with a false friend.
– You see a friend or a colleague sad and out of sorts. You try to cheer them up, be positive and uplifting, but they question everything and only find counterarguments. Deflated, you conclude they just don’t want to be helped and let them be. After all, they seem to enjoy their misery.
These are examples of reacting to parts and missing the big picture.
However, it’s the context that gives meaning and clarifies the intentions behind the selected words.
Could you be missing other valuable aspects that change everything?
For example, what do the tone of the voice and the body language of the speaker tell you? (A commanding tone conveys a different meaning to a phrase than a sarcastic or a teasing one.)
What about the timing? (A racy joke told at the pub to your friends has a different meaning – and effect!- than when you say it to your mother in law.)
There can be many factors at play when creating the meaning and focusing solely on words or some parts of the phrases you pick can give you a distorted understanding of what is going on.
…If you noticed the sadness of your parents’ sigh and silence when you’re ignoring (again) their suggestions, maybe you could sense their advice comes from a genuine place of love and care. Maybe you’ll sense their pain of not feeling useful or important in your life anymore.
…If instead of shunning your friend you asked her what she meant, maybe she’d tell you the whole story; how she said she stands by your decision and believes it’s the right one, even if people who don’t know the facts say you were rude and insensitive.
…The colleague who’s questioning your cheerful encouragements and sees only the negative isn’t doing it because he’s an asshole who enjoys being miserable. Maybe his counterarguments are issues that really plague him, and he’s only looking for reassurance. You offered to help, well, don’t run when he reveals the darkness that’s eating them – help him see the light you’re seeing.
Despite our claims to rationality, more often than not we’re making our choices based on emotions. Seeing the whole context of a problem gives us more information and helps us from taking hasty actions that we regret later on.
This will not only bring more compassion into our relationships but also make them more authentic.
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