April 2, 2003
From the time I moved to my current location, I had trouble finding my turnoff on the highway coming from my parents’ farm. Finally, I noticed that there was a large, white Farmer’s Union sign near the street sign, and much more visible, and I have gone by this sign ever since. But when I mentioned it to Mom, she asked, “What sign?” I asked how she and Dad found the turnoff. She said, “Oh, we go by the big farm.”
What farm? For over three years, every time I approached my turnoff, I searched for that farm. There were several large farms along the highway, but none that were at all near my intersection, and I could not for the life of me figure out what they were seeing. Finally, just a couple weeks ago, I figured it out. There was a large farm near the intersection—but off the street, not the highway! Of course I had seen it a million times, but never associated it with the highway.
I do computer tech support over the phone for a living. I walk customers through troubleshooting so clearly that some of them have been convinced that I have a way to look at their computer screen. I don’t, but they find it reassuring to have me describing exactly what they should be looking at. It’s actually very easy, because I am usually looking at some replica of what they are looking at, whether I’m following along on my computer or clicking through a simulation. However, even then there is sometimes miscommunication.
Me: Trying to determine which program is causing the customer’s computer woes. “Where are you getting this error message?”
Customer: “In the middle of my screen!”
Ah, perception. No matter how hard we try, no two people will ever view the world in the same way. That’s why we love it so much when someone else happens to view something in the same quirky way we do. We feel an instant connection to that person, if only for that moment. However, the reason those moments are so special is because they are so rare.
Each of us is a unique being. Every time we have a miscommunication, it gives us a peek into how another person perceives things. The next time you have a misunderstanding with someone, instead of becoming annoyed, think of it as a difference in perception, and look on it as an opportunity to learn a little more about how that person thinks and how they view the world.
And if you ever do phone tech support for
a living, remember to be very specific when you ask questions!