For years I never understood what the purpose of all those ‘yellow bumps’ were outside of grocery and department stores. Honestly, I thought they were one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. Have you ever tried pushing your cart of groceries through them? What a nuisance!
Well, they’re not so much of a nuisance anymore. Let me explain.
One morning my daughter was watching an episode of Curious George. I happened to tune in as George, Hundley and Gnocchi were assisting a blind woman get around town. When they walked across one of the strips of little yellow bumps, George was curious as to what they were and why they were there. The blind woman explained that the little yellow bumps were there to alert her that she was about to enter a traffic area. Turns out those little yellow bumps are called “truncated domes” and they provide a “detectable warning” to vision impaired individuals.
Curious George helped me understand what the yellow bumps were for, and it immediately changed my attitude toward them. No longer will I see them as a nuisance. Rather, I will think about what a help these must be to my friends who cannot see as I can.
Stephen Covey, in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, made famous the adage: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t come very natural to many of us – especially in our social media driven world. We want to be understood. We want to get our point across. We’re quick to blog, tweet and chime in on every topic imaginable. Whether it’s the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner controversy or the Duggars or the latest Ferguson/Baltimore/McKinney racial tension, we feel the urge – the impulse – to get our thoughts out on the matter. There is one big problem with this. Our thoughts usually only run through one filter: Our life experience and frame of reference.
This is how we argue with our spouse too, right? You pretend that you’re listening, only hearing selective parts of the conversation waiting for them to take the slightest of breath so you can pounce!
As Covey pointed out in his book, it’s really because our aim is simply to reply – not to understand. Our impulses are usually selfish – not selfless. We value our own opinion way more than the opinions of others.
What would happen if we genuinely attempted to understand each other? What if we did the hard work of trying to put ourselves in the framework of other people – in light of their life experiences? How might it change our communication? How might it change our tone? How might it change our attitude?
Having an opinion and a point of view is right and good. But what if we sought to understand, before we sought to be understood?