Perspective is Paramount

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

Last month I was involved in a three-car accident. My car endured $11,000 worth of damage, with the entire right side of my vehicle smashed from front to back, including two fairly nice-sized holes in the right rear door and right back panel. The auto-body technician said he had never seen anything quite like that before. That comment was concerning. My beautiful, shiny, sporty white car…no more.

From driving down the street on a gorgeous sunny day without a care on my mind to suddenly this…police statements, insurance forms, calls from the agent, calls from my insurer, calls from the adjuster, calls from the body shop, a call from the rental car company, more forms, a call to the doctor, more paperwork, a call from the other insurance company, more doctor appointments, and still…more paperwork. Overall, it was a tough pill to swallow. But as the saying goes, it’s just a car and it could have been so much worse. No one was thankfully seriously injured; yet the neck and back pain likely won’t leave as quickly as it came.

What I found to be amazing, though, was the difference in perspectives. The three drivers were all there. We all experienced the same accident. Yet how two of us recount the events couldn’t have been more different.

After calling the police, three officers arrived quickly to the scene and began to assess the situation. One officer walked to driver #1 and asked him to explain what happened. He responded, “After checking for traffic, I pulled out from this parking spot and she hit me.” I walked closer, took a deep breath and calmly said, “I hit you?” He replied, “Ya.” I asked, “How is that possible? If we look at the damage on my car, how could me hitting you have caused this damage? Or am I wrong?” After seeing a confused expression on the driver’s face, I then turned and looked at the officer, awaiting his response.

I honestly believe this young man thought I hit him. At the very least, he was somewhat convincing…even to me. I started to question myself. How crazy is that? I did and still do feel bad for that young driver. It was a simple mistake and he is going to pay for it, likely with his license. I realize that it is the responsibility of each driver to be mindful and careful, but I am also a Mom, and I feel for young drivers when they are involved in accidents. Although, I didn’t feel bad enough to accept the blame, nor should I. He was given a citation and I was left to deal with my wrecked vehicle and minor injuries.

So my feeling on this accident is that we all share perspectives that we see through our own lens. It may be “the truth” or it could be “our truth.” The challenge is to figure out which perspective is right. It isn’t about “they” versus “us.” Instead, it is about listening, questioning, and truly trying to understand. Real listening, better known as “active listening”, is something many of us take for granted…like it is a skill we all possess. Unfortunately, many do not either have this skill or exercise it as often as s/he could. If you want to learn more about how to engage in real listening, William Ury is one quality source. He is a world-renowned mediator, and works with conflict involving board-room battles to ethic wars across the globe. Click here to “listen” to Ury’s perspective.

PRIDE. It Can Be Bittersweet.

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

PRIDE. It’s a powerful emotion. Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. 

With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly and irrationally corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments.

With a positive connotation, pride refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.

This past week I felt an immense sense of pride, but it was bittersweet.

Someone very special to me has made choices that have led him down an unconventional and difficult path. He chose to hang with a group of friends that were far from being a positive influence, which then led to more negative choices. After enduring six stints in jail before age 19, facing two felony charges (among many other misdemeanors), and deciding to drop out of high school, this individual has chosen to live a less-than-easy life.

Over the course of the last year, though, he has remained clean, maintained a full-time job, is successfully living on his own in a nice apartment he calls home, pays bills on time, renewed his driver’s license after it was reinstated, bought a car and is insuring it, AND decided to adjust his work schedule to go back to high school to earn his diploma. After many long days, hours, and endless effort, a little less than one week before graduation day we were making the final plans for who would be attending the ceremony, we finalized our family celebration event, decided on the perfect outfit, and wrapped the gifts we couldn’t wait to give.

On Monday, May 30, just three days before graduation, I received a dreaded and heart-wrenching call. He was arrested and currently residing in a holding cell.

Incredible fear. Intense anxiety. Too many questions to even imagine. What happened? How could this be possible? Is the agonizing whirlwind happening yet again?

Today is June 5, and unfortunately we know little more than we did on May 30. The charges are incredibly steep, but the proof is weak. I believe in his innocence and pray our judicial system leans in our favor. This week will offer many more answers.

I don’t feel any less pride for him for attaining the milestone of graduating high school. In fact, it is that much more meaningful knowing the extra efforts that went into making it happen after dropping out. But I feel robbed of experiencing the joy and expressing the pride that was so deserving. He and I will never get that back. It is lost forever. Pride feels incredible when you are able to express it and enjoy it; yet it is tremendously painful when it is forced to be contained.

Whether feeling the powerful emotion of pride is positive or negative, I believe it is important to focus on what you can control. We all face obstacles, but it is our reaction to the tough stuff that we can control. How we choose to react will either lead us into a downward spiral of pain and sorrow, or lift us to a renewed sense of optimism. It is our choice.

After all…he did graduate–and even though he didn’t get to be honored in the same way as others, he did ultimately accomplish his goal. But as with other tracks in life, this one was yet another that was unconventional. What’s important to remember is that no one person paves the same path as anyone else. We each make choices that lead us down our path. I can only hope that his detour is short-lived and he can soon resume living his positive life.