People respond to their experience, not to reality

Last Sunday, I was watching a game of football in the park. At one point I saw a perfectly good tackle. The man next to me saw a foul warranting a yellow card. Sam, the man’s dog, just watched a ball that needed chasing. We were all involved in the same event, and we all experienced it differently.


Perhaps because of the degree of attention we were giving to that particular incident. Or because of relationships we shared with certain players on the pitch. Or because of our beliefs and values. Or because of a primal instinct that screams at us to chase anything that vaguely resembles a rabbit. This last possibility applies only to simple creatures like Sam, of course. (Although it might also apply to the guy next to me, as it was clearly a fair tackle.)

The important point is that we all experience the world and process information through our senses. However, no two people see the world in exactly the same way. We don’t necessarily interpret the same words in the same way. We don’t express the same emotions in the same way. As a result, we don’t remember the same event in precisely the same way. Hence the communication gap.

Listen to the phrase:

‘We give meanings to statements and events.’

Which is the most telling word in that sentence?

Did you choose the word ‘give’? Meanings don’t exist until we create them, do they?

We all apply meanings based on our perspectives, expectations and aspirations. So, the more you understand how others experience a particular event, the more capable you are of discussing it with them in ways that make them come rushing across the bridge to meet you.

In the final analysis, words are not reality. They are the primary symbols through which we attempt to share our experiences with others and with ourselves.

The wonderful paradox is that although words are not the reality they describe, they are more powerful than that reality. They shape that reality and our interaction with it. They influence our expectations and our experiences. They either hold us prisoner or set us free.


Treat them with respect. Use them with care.

Until next time,

Keep Closing the Gap.