Tag Archives: coping with social drama

The Art of Perspective Taking

What I wrote about learning perspective taking under “The social error” in History of Bad Parties was about a major milestone in my life and a key social concept which I for the time being ponder quite a lot about.

Perspective taking is a fascinating concept. It implies that life is a sort of multiverse where everybody live in their own variation of the world. Learning to acknowledge that everyone has his or her own unique perception and logic opens up for mind travel through the social multiverse – for visits to others’ worlds, or at least brief snapshots of some of their views. Awareness of perspectives is the dimension that makes life multidimensional and full of nuances rather than flat and black & white.

 

clipart - alien standing next to spaceship on cliff with weird plants
A spaceship isn’t necessary for travelling alien worlds, after all

 
The Art of Perspective Taking is the secret super power that enables people to make sense of what other people do and in a more overall sense, what happens in the surrounding world.

And I can see how people who are good perspective takers have a massive social advantage over people who are not. Perspective taking enables people to be empathic and genuinely helpful, but also to manipulate – be political and play mind games.

Perspective taking is an ability that often seems to be taken for granted in adults, but I actually suspect most people cheat with that ability most of the time. They convince themselves and others that they understand everyone’s perspective, but it is more likely they just imagine what they themselves would have done in a similar situation. If others are fairly similar to themselves, then that is probably good enough most of the time.

If they are not, then they’ll get it wrong, but they may not even notice their errors if they are confident of their perspective taking abilities.

I’m used to being in the receiving end of poor perspective taking. Peoples’ assumptions about me are usually way off base when they express them – and probably even more when they don’t. I suspect it goes the other way as well… so I prefer to ask people what they think rather than infer something based on my, with 99% guarantee wrong, assumptions.

I’ve discovered the Art of Perspective Taking unusually late in life, and freely admit that almost everyone I know is better at it than me – better at guessing most other peoples’ reasoning and views and feelings.

I do think I have one big advantage with perspective taking though: namely the awareness that I’m most likely wrong most of the time.

I know my mind works a bit differently from most people, so I can’t just assume that others feel what I would have felt or are drawing conclusions I would have made. Since I can’t rely on my assumptions, I know I have to listen and learn with an open mind. Every person’s perspective is a surprise and a reminder that everyone is different; and that there exists infinitely many versions of existing.

 
This is the first post of several brewing drafts where I’m trying to get my head around perspective taking and its related concepts.

Illustration by Anarres at Openclipart.org

Parties & Irrelevant Pity

Recently* my husband and I were invited to dinner by someone from Church. Also invited was the pastor and another pastor, who are my husband’s hunting buddies, and their wives.

 
old clipart of dinner party around a table, to pairs, man raising to toast, black and white drawing

 
I don’t usually* go to dinners because of my noise sensitivity and to be honest, even without that problem I doubt I would attend many dinners because I’m not really into the social side either, such as mingling with other wives and chatting about random topics. Dinners are ‘just not my cup of tea’ as I explain to some people.

In this case, however, the dinner was held very nearby where we live … just a few houses down on our street, and that made it harder to make a socially acceptable excuse.

The pastor tried to persuade me to come to the dinner, even if just briefly, so I could entertain the other pastor’s wife or something like that. Now, that isn’t a good role to put me in in any case. Out of all forced conversations I can think of, expected wife-chatting is one of the most awkward, and with the noise level there was likely to be in there (I have been there before) that wouldn’t work at all, not even for 10 minutes as he suggested. So I politely maintained my “No Thanks”.

 
Dinner Day

The day of the dinner came, and it happened that I wasn’t working at that time. I work variable hours, and I didn’t have to go that evening.

The pastor dropped by our house and asked again if I was working and asked me to come. I politely declined, but started to feel quite guilty about it. While my husband dressed up and walked the few steps down to the dinner, I just relaxed at home, increasingly conscious about the fact that it does not look right in the eyes of the community. However, I trust my husband to explain so nobody would take it personal.

When my husband came back from the dinner later in the evening, he said that it had been very noisy, a bit too much even for him. The host has a high pitched voice which she uses eagerly for melodramatic effects, and I would have hated it, he said.

So I ended up being perfectly happy with my decision to stay home, where I had enjoyed myself with undisrupted computer time.

 
‘So Sorry for You’…

Come Sunday, I met the dinner host in Church, and she said that she felt so sorry for me. My husband had explained to her that I couldn’t come to the dinner because of my over-sensitivity to noise, and she assumed that I must have felt terribly lonely and left out.

She made a comforting face expression and spiced her words with high pitched (ouch!) empathetic vocal sounds, and wanted to give me a hug. I froze in my position where I stood, awkward and hard faced of discomfort, just wanting to shield myself against the intrusive emotional drama that was coming at me. And unwarranted hugs! No thanks!

 

clipart of depressed black cat sitting at a table with a portion of spaghetti

 
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that people are inclusive and care about others’ feelings. It feels much better to not be at a party when invited than when not invited (as in “we don’t think you are worthy of our company”). It is just the parties and dinners themselves I’d rather be without, and I am fine without being there.
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An easy life

‘You are living an easy life, aren’t you? You ain’t doing nothing!’

the old man said. I pass his house every day when I walk or run* with my dogs. When he and his dog are out in his front yard, I stop and talk, so my dogs get this beautiful rare chance to hang out with another dog that, albeit a bit cranky, doesn’t behave like an erratic maniac like many other dogs around here.

 
Most of what the old man says is difficult to hear, because his voice is like a soft, mumbling creek of linked words strayed with Aussie idioms, and garden noises in the surroundings zap out some of them too. However, I usually manage to pick up enough key words here and there to estimate what we’re talking about, and make friendly expressions and statements (one syllable is sufficient) every now and again to prove my participation in the conversation.

I like him, and I like listening to him.  He is a bit like my grand mother (R.I.P), and I enjoy seeing his joy about having someone to talk to, while my dogs have a great time relaxing in the grass and pestering their ‘friend’.

The above quote is one of the sentences that I did hear in full, and I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. Slightly insulted, I told him that I work as a research interviewer with variable hours, I ain’t ‘ain’t doing nothing’. ‘OK’, he said, and maybe something along the lines of ‘that sounds like a great job’.
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