Saturday, April 05, 2008

5 ways to not see

Have you ever been looking at something that is absolutely clear an present and been frustrated that someone else could not see it? Did you assume that the problem was really that they were choosing not to see?

It's easy for us to assume that what we see should be visible to other people. It's easy, and usually at least a little wrong and not at all useful. There are at least 5 ways that people cannot see what seems to you to be right in front of them.

The first way is that you are wrong. What you are seeing is not actually there. You have a "vision" that is clear within your brain but not clearly present in the physical world.

The second way is that they are "blind" - actually or metaphorically. They do not have the neurological equipment to register the presence of what you are seeing.

The third way is related to the first two. Everyone has a physiological blind spot - a part of our field of vision where no information gets recorded. We do not notice our own blindspots because our brains cleverly decide what should be there and paint us what looks like one seamless picture.

The fourth way is that the people are not looking right in front of them - they are twisting and turning and gazing off into the distance. They do not see what you see because they are not looking at it, even though it seems obvious that they have access to it.

The fifth way is that what you are looking at means something different to them - or means nothing at all to them. This is the case with people who are born blind and regain their physical vision. They can register visual information but they cannot make meaning out of what they see. Click here for a recent study of one of these cases.

The next time someone cannot see your point, find out why. Do you need to help them move their attention so that what you see registers with them? Or do you have to establish connections with patterns that already have meaning for them? Maybe they will never see it at all - because they are blind or because what you are seeing is more vision than reality.

None of these means that either you or the other person are bad or weak or hostile. Understanding that gives you hope that you can maintain the relationship and move forward. Even when you see differently.

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