Last week I saw a rock being thrown into someone else’s pond and watched the ripples that followed. I was surprised to see waves. I judged the reaction. I told them there should not be waves. It was just a tiny little pebble.
But here’s the thing – it wasn’t my pond, and my view of what happened in their’s was brief and hazy.
Maybe the waves were too big for the rock that caused them, or maybe they were just right, in fact perhaps they were too small. I can’t decide that. Only the person to whom the pond belongs will really know if the reaction was right.
The best thing I could have done was not to be an ill-informed commentator or judge, but rather a questioner and listener. Seeking to understand how the other person saw and experienced the rock and the ripples. Helping them to evaluate the cause and effect so they could ultimately judge the balance between the two.
It was a good reminder for me that two people can experience the exact same event, but have wildly different interpretations and recollections of what happened. They perceive the rock differently – not only it’s size but density and smoothness. And their ponds are different too. Different sizes, shapes, depths, weather conditions. Two rocks, two ponds, two sets of ripples.
I know this stuff. I think about this stuff often. I talk about it regularly with my students and friends. But when I was in it last week, I forgot. I forgot the metaphor. So now I’m pondering how I can store this closer to the front of my mental filing cabinet, or what hook can I use to remind me of this when I need it?