Leap Year Lesson #209: We Only Know What We Know

Posted: July 30, 2012 in Perceptions
Tags: , , ,

While walking my dog in our neighborhood earlier tonight, I walked past a young family with three little girls.  As I was walking by, one of the girls looked up on the roof of the house in front of us and, upon seeing the skylight, said “Oh, is that an iPad?”  The dad chuckled and said, “No, it isn’t an iPad.  It’s a skylight.”  I smiled as I walked by them and pulled ahead at the faster pace my dog and I prefer.

The girl’s confusion is completely understandable.  She hadn’t seen (or noticed) skylights before, but she is well aware of iPads.  She spoke from the context of her experience.  As children, we all do that, for example, by learning broad categories like “dog” that apply to many things before we develop the ability to distinguish between German Shepherd, Collie and St. Bernard.  The girl saw a rectangular object (albeit it very large and on a roof) that had the shape and glass color of what she knew – an iPad.  That was her frame of reference.

I think we need to remember that the same is true for people of all ages.  Too often we expect people to see and understand things exactly as we do.  But nobody else on earth has exactly the same background, education, language and experience that you do.  What should be “common knowledge” in your estimation may not be an option for someone with a different background, education, language or experience.

Being aware of those differences may help us be a little more understanding and kinder toward others.

Leap year lesson #209 is We only know what we know.

Comments
  1. Rodney says:

    Good thought Jeff. More information flows than ever before in our society, but that might actually lull us into thinking we understand each other more than we actually do. “Just give me the bullet points, I don’t need to actually talk with you about something!”

  2. Jeff Ross says:

    True, Rodney. A work email I read today had a few bullets labeled “BLOT” at the top which stands for “Bottom Line On Top.” Just the facts, ma’am.

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