What Does It Look Like From Over There?

“There are always two sides to every story.”

Or as my wife is fond of saying,

There’s your side and then there’s my side – the right side!

Why “two” sides?

That’s true if there are only two people in the story. What happens when there are more than two people?

Why not as many sides to a story as there are storytelling raconteurs? Each with their own perceptions and perspectives of the story?

Perceptions based on what each notices, observes and senses is unfolding in the story.

Perspectives based on what each thinks about what they’re sensing as the story unfolds – their personal point of view.

No wonder there are so many sides to a story. Everyone who is witness to a story will have their own perception (what they sense) and perspective (what they think).

Here are a few examples…

When my eldest daughter was younger, we would often walk out to the local Blockbuster (when video rentals were still a thing). She couldn’t wait to rent her next video. On one occasion, there were fire trucks and water hoses lining the streets, which we had to walk around to get to Blockbuster. It was a very frenetic scene with emergency workers darting here and there. It created quite a visual distraction for anyone in the vicinity. At least that’s what I observed. On the way home with her new video clutched tightly in her hands, we reminisced about the fire trucks that had long since left the scene. My daughter looks up and quizzically asks

What fire trucks?”

She was so intent and focused on getting to Blockbuster that she was oblivious and unaware of all the commotion.

In my neighbourhood there has been a lot of road construction lately. Heavy equipment, massive concrete drainage pipes, mounds of dirt and detour signs have taken over many of the streets. It snarls up traffic like a maze for both cars and pedestrians alike. The noise and dust are incessant. All some people see is the inconvenience and frustration, while others look forward to the day when their basements stop flooding after a heavy rainfall.

I made salad for dinner the other day. While my efforts were appreciated, my perception of what constitutes “fresh” when it comes to produce is often not the same as everyone else in the family. It’s become a running joke. “Dad made the salad – be afraid”. While I might consider limp romaine lettuce perfectly edible, my wife would’ve tossed it into the green recycle bin long ago. I didn’t think twice of slicing up the remains of a week old red onion to add to the salad, while my daughter refused to have any of it.

My wife is a Zoom newbie. So when she recently took on a job that required online facilitation and presentations with remote audiences, I agreed to help her become more Zoom literate. After a while of showing her the basics including screen sharing, we could both see she wasn’t getting it. We were both frustrated. In pops my daughter who offered to help. After observing the interaction between between myself and my wife, she realized that the problem wasn’t just a lack of Zoom knowledge, it started with a dearth of Windows knowledge. Windows basics such as knowing what applications were active on her PC, were missing.

I was so focused on teaching her all about Zoom that I completely overlooked her inadequate Windows knowledge.

It was like trying to run before you walk.

Thanks to our daughter’s perception and perspective of the situation – her side of the story, my wife is becoming (Windows and) Zoom literate.

Not only do perceptions and perspectives differ from one person to the next. In my experience, a person’s perceptions and perspectives will change over time.

Perceptions and perspectives can age like a fine wine or sour like past due milk and everything in between.

Have you ever noticed how you gain new insights every time you re-read a book? Or see something you missed when watching a movie for the second time? Or hear a different instrument, lyric or note when listening to a song over and over again?

The book, movie and song didn’t change. What changed were your perception and perspective at the time – your side of the story.

Yes, there are many sides to a story and those sides seem to morph over time.

Nothing stays the same, not even the retelling of our stories.

Rather than fight over the differences, embrace and accept them to develop yet another side to the story.

Yours, theirs and ours.

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