Friday, June 10, 2022
Next week, my son, William, is going to racing school. It was a present for his 18th birthday. Like his father he likes cars. Like his grandfather, he like to go fast in cars. So, it seemed wise to combine some education with his fascination. So off to school he’s going to go. It’s something he’s been excited about … until the last week or so. Lately he’s seemed less enthusiastic about the whole thing. When before he’d talk about the adventure in a quite animated way, now he’s more reserved, matter of fact, and ready to change the subject. It has started to seem like something he doesn’t want to do anymore. The nearer time has come to leaving the less excited he’s become about going.
Finally, I asked him what was wrong. Of course, at first, it was, “nothing.” But eventually, I learned it was the 5 hours of flying it was going to take to get there. See, Will hates to fly. He always has. His trepidation about the trip, and what seemed the school, actually had nothing to do with the school. It was the air travel to get there. Will just wasn’t looking forward to the flight and it colored the way the rest of us thought he was thinking about the trip generally. Had I not asked him, I might have just cancelled the whole trip or made some other mistake based on my own assumptions of how and what he was feeling. That would have been a disaster. But then bad things typically happen when we simply assume what other people are thinking based on the masks they are wearing.
And that’s the point for the week.
When we try to diagnose the feelings of others from a distance bad things almost always happen. That’s because we’re almost never correct in our assumptions. The masks people wear are generally meant to hide their true feelings, not to portray them. But most of us miss that. Instead, we, at a glance, attempt to figure out what’s behind their expression, their body language, their eyes, not once thinking to simply ask them what’s going on. Then, acting on our own bad intelligence, we make matters worse.
In attempting to fix things we cause further damage. In attempting to heal, we create a greater rift. In attempting to bridge a gap, we widen one. All because we thought better of simply taking the time to get behind the mask, by showing that we care enough to ask what’s behind it.
After all, that’s what most people want anyway – to be cared about … to be listened to … to be unmasked, in their time and on their terms. No one wants by told by someone that they just fixed their problem when they haven’t even told that person what their problem is. But in most cases it’s not even about solving their problem. It’s simply about being listened to, about being understood, about not being judged, about someone saying, “I still love you no matter what” and “I’m not going to make stupid decisions based on stupid assumptions anymore.”
Most people want little more than that from their leaders, from their parents, from their siblings or from people they bump into on the street.
People don’t want to be the objects of assumption, they want to be the objects of affection. It’s truly no more complicated than that.
So, take the time to care enough to get behind the mask.
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Image credit: Geralt | Pixabay.com