Experience Does Not Always Make You The Authority

04 May

“Imagine a wall that’s green on one side and red on the other. You stand on one side and only see green. I stand on the other side and only see red. We’ll both be right about the color we see, even though we disagree on what color the wall is. Being able to realize that the other person has a valid point, even if you disagree with it, that’s maturity.”

 Oliver Gaspirtz

Losing a loved one to the cold hands of death gives you a perspective on loss that only experience can explain effectively. However, it is easy to think that this experience makes us the authority on the topic of loss, but I have come to understand that this is not accurate.

A while back, a colleague and I had a heated debate about loss. We had both experienced the loss of loved ones and had different opinions on how the circumstances surrounding one’s passing affects how that loss is felt by loved ones. Being two opinionated people and true Nigerians, our voices were raised, almost assuming that the person with the loudest voice made the strongest argument and won the debate. Statements like, ‘I know what am talking about’ was injected every now and then into respective points (As if that should automatically settle it *hehehehe*). Needless to say, the argument ended with neither of us doing any convincing.

Fast forward to about a week later, I had stumbled upon Celeste Headlee’s Ted Talk on 10 ways to have a better conversation (If you want something to do with your spare time, I suggest watching Ted Talk. Trust me, you will be inspired and most likely have a mental reboot). It was an enlightening talk, to say the least, with a lot to learn but what really struck a chord was when she said, ‘don’t equal your experience with others…all experiences are individual’.

Experiences and feelings are subjective. There is no textbook script on how a person should feel about things that happen to them, regardless of the circumstances. In fact, it is possible to feel loss of two different loved ones in completely different ways. You would think this is something I would know considering the number of people I cared for who have passed.

Bottom line is this; it is seductive to think that because it felt one way for us, it is the status quo on how it (Loss, love, birth etc) should feel, or to think that our pain is somehow more or less than another’s because of the circumstance of our loss as opposed to theirs. Fact is, experience does not always make us the authority, especially in subjective issues. Sometimes, all it does, is give us a perspective, for which, there are likely other gazillion perspectives.

‘True Listening requires a setting aside of one’s self’ and when we discuss experiences and feelings with people, we have to set aside our own opinions and feelings and listen to how they felt, what it meant to them. That is the only way we can gain other perspectives and just maybe, understand better.

Needless to say, I repented of my earlier stance in my debate with my colleague but only in my mind. I did not tell her because I know her well enough to know that would be interpreted to mean I was wrong , were in fact, it was a case of two different perspectives that was neither wrong. (Well, maybe I was wrong a little; in trying to make my opinion a general one).

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Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Uncategorized


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