I read the first chapter of The Art of Racing in the Rain, last night. It was a short chapter, and it is in the narrative of a dog. This perspective has helped me to realize a truth that has been one of the hardest for me to fully realize and accept in my life. People spend so much time assuming what other people want, that they make their decisions based on what they think another person wants or needs.
I see it all the time when people complain that their life is spent doing things for other people. Or that because they spent so much time doing for others, they suffered. Now it’s too late for them. There is no time for me. Well the perspective of this dog will teach those who are willing to learn. You need a very specific, and not so easy to come by, mix of presentation and interpretation for your actions and behaviors, your intentions to come through to in the manner you believe they will or want them to.
What would happen if we just focused on what we wanted for ourselves? How selfish that would be! To not consider others. To only think of ourselves. But what if we were honest and up front about what we want for ourselves, and let those around us react and tell us if that works for them. We might find that being independent in our actions, and choosing for ourselves will allow others to be independent and choose for themselves.
Even if we think we know what others want or need, why are we so sure that we are right? Do we think that others know better what we need or want, better than ourselves? I doubt it. I hate when people think they know what I need or should want. Especially when it is different from what I know I need or want.
My dad and I have discussed this on some different levels. The idea being that way you address someone, or convey something isn’t necessarily going to be how they will receive it. So what is more important? How you intended your message to come across or how it was received? My dad has argued that the intention of the sender is what matters, while I disagree. I understand his point. If I intend to help you, that should mean the world. If you intended to help someone, that means huge difference to to if you intended to hurt that person. The flip side is the actual effect you ended up having. Regardless of anyone’s good or bad intent, if the result is that the recipient did not receive the message well, the intentions are lost anyway. And a more important effect might be that the receipt of the message could have been interpreted in a damaging hurtful way.
This all makes me firmly believe that we cannot afford to make our presentations, our messages to others, based on what we think they want or need. I theorize that if we instead focus on what we want and need, make that our message, we would then free the recipients of our messages to respond with their own independently formed wants and needs about themselves. We might both be free to express and gain what we need for ourselves and from each other without inhibiting the other person. It’s ironic that the inhibition we might cause can come out of an intention to care for another.
So that is just the first chapter of the book. We shall see how the rest of this goes…