Our perspective can change so much about what we experience in life. Ever go to a play or movie and sit behind someone who partially blocks our view? We don’t get to experience as much or to receive it unfiltered. We may have to interpolate to fill in some of the missing elements. At the least, it’s annoying and inconvenient.
If we only catch part of a discussion, we attempt to fill in what we missed, but we may be missing a very important part of the conversation and not really understand what was being said. If we only see part of a street sign that has important information for us because a tree or bush was partially obscuring us or a large truck came between us and the sign while we were attempting to read it, we may have missed some critical information that would cause us to miss our intended turn, attempt to change lanes quickly, or otherwise act in a manner unwise or uncharacteristic of the way we drive.
In a football or baseball game, the upcoming play is called on the field, but if one of the players can’t see or hear the signs they won’t be able to do what their teammates (and ultimately the fans) are counting on them to do. In basketball, a timeout on the sidelines is very noisy, and the coach is attempting to shout his directions over the crowd noise. What if some of this key information is missed or misunderstood?
These instances are as much about communication as they are perception – the way we receive, interpret, and act upon messages coming our way. When it’s severe weather in our path – a tornado, hurricane, blizzard, ice storm, rising floodwaters, or other event that we are being affected by or could be in the path of, we are very much in the moment because it affects us or those we love. When the danger passes, it was a false alarm in that the danger was never real for where we live, or the alert is canceled due to a change in the direction or forecast of the storm or event, we breathe a sigh of relief. The typical response then is to resume our normal activities that we would have been doing if we had not known about the weather event.
This type of wakeup call – a scare – is good for us because it teaches us empathy and perspective. No matter what pressing business we have or which bills absolutely have to be paid today, the severe storm causes us to take a reflective step back and ask ourselves what if we don’t finish our assignment or get the bill paid? This is not said to suggest that we adopt a careless, irresponsible, or carefree attitude – that it’s okay to ignore our responsibilities when we feel like it.
It is said to establish priorities and to illustrate that certain life-and-death events or the potential for major propety damge overshadow our normal activities. It gives us perspective about what really is the most important to us and our well-being at the moment. Other less important items (although they still may be very important in their own right) are shuffled backward until the crisis passes. Then we can resume our activities – a little wiser and more patient perhaps for the eye-opening experience.
It’s this type of empathy or perspective that we can take with us into the homes of our clients when we are visiting them prior to a renovation, As we are doing our initial fact-finding and conducting an assessment of what we find necessary to do and what we want to recommend as a solution, we borrow on our years of emotional experiences. We superimpose our history onto the lives of the clients we are meeting, or we are in a position to understand their needs better as they relate to our life experiences.
We may not have the same issues as our clients are experiencing, and we may not have any direct first-hand knowledge of how they are dealing with their concerns, but we do know that this takes precedence for them and that nothing else around them matters as much as getting their lives back together in a safe and comfortable way.
The changes that we want to suggest may seem very simple or they may be rather complex. Still, it is for one specific client at a time, and what we have done in the past or what we might do with the next client is of little consequence at the moment. This client and their needs are all that matters now.
If we don’t improve their situation, we will have failed them in a significant way. We must help them, subject to their budget, additional funding possibilities, and their mobility and sensory issues. We put ourselves in their position to imagine what we would like to have done and how that would improve their quality of life and standard of living. Then we can move on from there.