Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Flowers - Tennessee (August 2006)

This shot was taken in my front yard.

Recently, I've been giving some consideration to how people perceive one another in their day-to-day verbal and non-verbal communication, especially after a certain semi-heated debate I was involved in last week in which someone who knew nothing about me questioned my character. It wasn't a particularly important debate, so I'll not elaborate on it, although it did lead me to do some thinking about people in general.

I'm sure there is a psychology textbook for pseudo-intellectuals somewhere which elucidates these thoughts already, but I've not read it, nor do I care to, so I'll elucidate the thoughts here in my own way.

Many of the problems faced in the world are caused by misinterpretations of others' motives for saying certain things and taking certain actions. I believe the cause of these misinterpretations is rooted in the method individuals use for the act of interpretation. In order to form a picture in one's mind about another person's motives (the "why" of their actions) one has to compare that action with an idea of him/herself performing that action (or making a certain statement), and extrapolate the personal motive that he/she might have if he/she were to act in the same way (or say the same thing, etc.), then project that extrapolated motive onto the actor or speaker.

Obviously, this method of interpreting others' motives is entirely flawed, and says much more about the psyche of the person doing the interpreting than it does about the person who actually took the action or made the statement. This is the case unless the interpreter has a level of a certain type of intelligence high enough to encompass the collective psyches of all personality types simultaneously, as in the case of those who act as criminal profilers. Otherwise, one's own character flaws serve to completely taint the interpretation process.

Basically, I think it's a good idea not to jump to snap judgements about people and their motives, unless one can claim to contain the psyches of all human beings simultaneously. True, one could be right in interpreting another's motives negatively, but one could also be wrong, and in the more subtle cases, most likely is.

Whenever someone is tempted to write another person off because of his/her interpretation of the other's motives, he/she should ask the question, "What does this interpretation say about me?"


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