Why do we see the world the way we do? And why is understanding others’ views so powerful...?
I’m the second of four siblings. We all grew up in the same house, to the same parents (well, until they got divorced at least).
When my first niece was a small baby, I could predict a confused look on her face when I walked into the room. Coming down the passage I’d be calling out to her – and she couldn’t hear any difference in the way my sister’s voice and mine sounded. Or even the words and intonations we’d use!
Physical likenesses aside though – the four of us are vastly different in our outlooks on the world.
You may be tempted to believe that as a parent you will pass on your empowering beliefs and value systems, trusting your children will one day make sound decisions in line with those. But the truth is – none of us see the world in the same way. Even twins who grow up together will have a differing model of the world.
Each of us uses this model like an unspoken rule book which guides our expectations of others and of ourselves. It outlines how we should live our lives, what we need, what we believe and what we value. Once we understand that – things seem to make more sense, and we’re able to adjust the ‘rules’ when we see they are no longer serving us.
But more powerful than that is when we understand another person’s model of the world, we can unlock the secret of what brings them pain. Understanding their model of the world enables us to appreciate what they experience favourably (as a reward) or what impacts them negatively (call it a punishment).
What makes up our model of the world?
1. Our core beliefs If you consider for a moment one aspect of life such as health. What are your beliefs? Maybe you believe “health is wealth”. Or perhaps it conjures up a challenging belief that “being healthy is painful and must include limiting food choices or spending unhappy hours in the gym”. We can have a large library of beliefs about any subject and we continually adapt these as we gain more experience of the world.
2. Our key decisions Key decisions are those that impact many future decisions. A girl who was abused by her father would make different key decisions regarding relationships for example than a girl whose father was her protector. Our key decisions (especially those made when we are young) set off a series of future choices and steer the direction of our lives.
3. Our life values All of us are governed by 6 common human needs. They include security, variety, significance, love/connection, growth and contribution. However – we do not all value the same needs in the same order. My best friend values significance far more highly that I do, and this is seen in the choices she makes for herself and how we interact with each other. I can bring her joy and pain just through the way I meet her life value for feeling significant.
4. Our references The sum of our experiences influence our model of the world – some to a greater degree than others depending on the emotions we attach to them. Perhaps you can easily recall something a teacher or parent once said that changed your outlook on life?
5. The habitual questions we ask ourselves If you were to evaluate the quality of the recurring questions you ask yourself – would you rate the majority of them as empowering or limiting? Do you say things like “why me?” or are you asking “what else can I try?”
6. The emotional states we repeatedly experience Again this is a great point of self-assessment. What does your “emotional home” look like? Do you most often reside in empowering and positive emotions, or do you find yourself easily sliding into limiting, negative emotions?
My siblings may have had a shared upbringing, but when put through the kaleidoscope of life, judged by their own highest values, their unique references, their habits of emotion and self-talk – it’s not difficult to see that their beliefs can be vastly different to mine. Their model of the world may have similarities – but it’s impossible for them to be identical.
So, if I want to enhance my relationships with them (or anyone for that matter), it starts with accepting that they see life differently. And they feel pain and pleasure in ways that may be opposed to mine.
How do we have powerful relationships? The starting point is taking ownership to in understanding our loved ones enough to bring them joy and avoid hurting them.