We Think We See It All

When we look through our eyes, we think we see things just as they are, see all there is to see. “The sky is blue” is the objective fact we most often fall back on when trying to diffuse an argument. It’s our baseline, our common ground, that one thing we can agree on so that we can move on. And yet it is a total fallacy.

We have managed to acknowledge that not everyone hears the same notes when we listen to a symphony, or tastes the same flavors when we eat a gourmet dish, or smells the same scent when we pass a woman getting off the elevator, or feels the same material when we put on a wool sweater — so why do we still not accept that everyone does not see the same vision when we look out into the world?

Through my brown eyes I see a world, but only see the brown. I see the mud, the rocks, the building tops. I see everything around.

Through my green eyes I see a world, but only see the green. I see the grass, the trees, the rolling fields. I see all that’s to be seen.

Through my blue eyes I see a world, but only see the blue. I see the sea, the sky, the birds that fly. I see all that is on view.

Through my eyes I see all your worlds and all the things you do. I see the rocks, the trees, the seas. I see brown and green and blue.

See, the things you see are all so great, but it’s best to see them all. And seeing your worlds through my eyes makes my world much less small.

~ Ed Stockham

To admit that we see things differently than other people do — that other people see things differently than we do — means admitting to ourselves and to everyone else that we don’t see it all. That we actually possess a very small world view.

Suddenly it feels like we’re somehow less than what we once thought we were. And that’s the truth. We are less than we once thought. But that isn’t a negative thing, it’s a MAJORLY positive thing. Look at how much more we get to learn! By layering our vision along with everyone else’s vision, together we create a much broader, deeper, richer vision of the world. Crisper colors. Farther mountains. Thicker trees. Deeper oceans. More opportunities.

Empathy isn’t just something you give to others; it’s something you give to yourself — by being happy that what you see isn’t the whole picture.

How willing are you to accept that you only see a sliver of the world? And what are you doing today to see the world through someone else’s eyes? All of our visions are equally needed.

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  1. says

    Nice post, I think I’d say ‘experience’ instead of ‘see’ – but the insight is well taken – everyone is exposed to different stimuli throughout their lives which shapes their perception. Every individual could react differently to any given experience.

    When we accept that we can’t know how every user will react to every decision we make, we can start focusing on the elements that unite everyone. We don’t need everyone to see everything, we just need them to see what’s important. The better we understand what causes people to consider things to be important, the better we’ll be able to communicate important things.

  2. Matthew kay says

    You see what you see what you see. Your perception is your reality. I see what I see. It’s my perception that’s real for me. Your peception is not my reality.

  3. says

    I love the video and this is why we need art — painting, music, literature, especially the novel that can submerge us in “the other” thus capturing us and holding us there, for an extended period within the empathic imagination.

  4. says

    As some people call it “the map is not the territory.”

    I really enjoy running mapping workshops, where each stakeholder has an opportunity to add their version of their mental model. It’s a great way for people to see things from each other’s point of view, and work towards a shared understanding.

  5. Martha Orloci says

    Thanks for bringing this up Whitney.
    I was always reminded of this when the kids were little. The questions they posed about the world around them made me understand how little I noticed of what I saw.
    The same can be said for hearing/listening can’t it?
    Part of my daily challenge is to live in the moment (I know, how cliche). I try to look and notice things, and to listen to what I am hearing. It is not easy.


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