It is a diagram of what is happening when we do something and someone reacts to it. Pretty basic interaction, right?
Not at all! It is so complicated!
It turns out, that it is remarkably difficult to see our behavior (and the impact that it has) objectively.
Yes, we ideally have access to what is inside the left-hand, smaller circle… “my thoughts & feelings” and also “my intentions,” though even these are not always accessible to us depending on our inner state!
And then, we have partial knowledge of our behavior… partial because it is so hard to perceive our facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
And unless the other person chooses to share, we have no visibility on the things solely in the right-hand circle: “my impact on them” and “their story about me.” These form the basis of their feedback.
Our relationships (and so our life) get better when we have more visibility on our behavior and our impact on others.
So, where to start?
1. Mindfulness practice – This deepens and refines my perception of and receptivity to all of the inputs in the graphic.
2. Taking myself less seriously – Humor (particularly the self-deprecating kind) lowers the stakes for the person who might take the risk to clue us in on what we are missing.
Officers and their families in the US Foreign Service pledge to be “worldwide available.” Where there is a need, an FSO will go.
And “bidding season” (the time when it is decided where one will serve next) for us is approaching… so this global availability is felt acutely.
As we research possible postings, we look at the different aspects of life in a certain location… pollution, for example. In the process, it becomes shockingly clear that we would have a very hard time living in some places because of the air quality.
That is to say, what is not “worldwide available” is air that will not make you sick. But billions (billions!) of people live in those places every day, unable to choose a different home.
I think the technology that exists to confront this problem is just the coolest thing.
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The few times that I have shadowed our sons in their (mostly German-speaking) school, I’ve gained an appreciation of how difficult it must be to be immersed in a new language in that context. Yes, young brains can pick up language fast, but going from zero to playground proficient is still a hard thing.
Lately, at home, we have noticed that they are most likely to practice their German when they are playing. Either alone or together, they play with both toys and language. They get in a lot of hours of practice that way and the German becomes part of their joy.
So: that new thing we want (or need) to learn… how can our learning feel like play?
When we moved into our house last summer, I found that someone had left an unassuming book in the dresser… an independently published book, 20 Walks from Munich. Each of the twenty walks is exhaustively (and often hilariously) detailed, like a pirate map through the Bavarian countryside.
When I tried out the first walk, I was looking up and down from the book every few minutes. I was a novice and wondered often if I was on the correct path. But the more I walked, the more I saw folks in their sixties and seventies in small groups on the very path that my book was describing.
They knew the way by heart.
I put away the book and followed where they were walking.
Our modern life typically does not prioritize listening to elders, but it could and, in many cases, should. The elders have walked this way before.