Understanding how people see the world
Each of us filters the world through our beliefs, values, attitudes, and all that we’ve learned in the past. Consequently, a group of people walking down the same street will often see different things. One may be focused on the shops and what they’re selling, another may be fascinated by the people walking by, and yet another could be busy checking out the cars that are driving by. Each area of focus is equally valid – they just come from different maps.
We tend to think that we are objective creatures, seeing the world as it is, but when we start talking to others and noticing the ways in which they see things differently to us, we realise that there are multiple interpretations that can be placed on the same stimuli. Our maps are not reality. They are just interpretations of reality. Recognising this allows us to be much more understanding of others. It’s incredibly powerful to realise that somebody is not deliberately being obnoxious, nor are they thoughtless, or always determined to do it in a way you don’t approve of, they are simply following a different map. It also allows us to take other people’s maps into consideration, realising that sometimes things that we think are perfectly obvious are actually not so to others. Sometimes a little more explanation is necessary in order to make sure we fully understand each other.
There is no “correct” map. Nor are there wrong maps. Each map is specific to the individual who has it and to that individual it is perfectly valid. I would say, however, that some maps are more useful than others. If a map helps a person to feel good about the world and to interact in positive ways with others, that’s really useful. In contrast, if a person’s map makes them suspicious of everyone and causes them to feel everyone is out there to get them, it just makes them feel bad, and that’s not so useful (unless of course everyone is out to get them, in which case it is extremely useful!).
As a final point, it is good to know that maps can be altered, and can grow and develop. New experiences cause our maps to grow, and even being open to the maps of others allows us to realise what other maps are possible, and allows us to consider the possibility of extending our own maps in the same way if we desire.