Back when I was teaching other people how to teach, I ran across something that turned out to be one of the greatest discoveries of my life.
It's a concept called perception. I can honestly say that learning about perception changed my entire life. It could also change yours.
Perception isn't one of those complex, high-flown ideas that sound pompously important and turn out to be a lot less than advertised.
On the contrary, it's so simple, that when you first hear it explained, it doesn't make a great impression on you. It's only after you think about it for a while and realize its vast significance, that its real importance dawns on you.
I can best explain perception with an example. Suppose someone holds something behind his back, makes a noise with it, and you recognize the noise as the characteristic sound of--say--a pair of scissors.
No big thing, right?
Don't you believe it!
In simple terms, here's what happened: You did not, as we would ordinarily say, "hear" a pair of scissors.
What you "heard" was a sound. It didn't have a name yet; in fact, you had no idea what it was. Your ears sent a signal to your brain. Your brain took that signal and compared it to every sound you had ever heard before, searching until it found one that matched. And it did it so fast that virtually no time passed between the time you heard the sound and the time you recognized it.
How the brain does something so extraordinary, we don't know, and may never know. What we do know is that no computer in existence can even come close to doing what your brain does with ease.
So what is perception? It's what happens when you hear, see, taste, touch, or smell something.
A signal passes to your brain, that signal is compared with what's already stored there, a match is found and the "something" is recognized. That's perception; the coming together of a sensory input and information already stored in your brain.
What this all means is that everything we experience is filtered through what already exists in our heads. There is no absolutely objective reality for each of us.
What we experience, and more importantly how we feel about what we experience, is a part of who we are. And remember, this is not some high-flown philosophical concept; it's hard, scientific reality. This is how your mind really works. The statement, for example, that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is one of the most profoundly accurate statements ever made.
Next time you talk to some hard-headed %$#@! individual who just doesn't "get it," step back for a moment and consider the other person's background.
Try to see things from his or her viewpoint. You don't have to agree with him or her, but understanding his or her viewpoint, it may provide you with insight that resolves a problem between you which otherwise might never be resolved.
Try it. It works!
And, there's something else to think about: When the day comes that you can see the world through the eyes of others, you will have gained a skill that few people enjoy.