5/01/2013

Paul Watzlawick - How Real Is Real?

After reading Watzlawick's 'How real is real?' you might make a conclusion that it is impossible to communicate. That much more common is confusion or misunderstanding. It's not speakers fault that he would speak incomprehensibly nor there's fault on receiver 's side having problems to understand. Most of the people would blame their conversational partner but the reason is that each of us understand the reality differently
To illustrate it let's bring back a story from UK in the months after the end of WWII. Hundreds of American soldiers waited in the kingdom before they returned home and spent the time by chasing British girls. Strangely both sided accused the other from being too eager to have sex. How could both groups want sex more and be unhappy about it?
The answer is quite easy - both Americans and British use their learned seducing pattern. Both parties considered normal that between first meeting and ending up in the bed are circa thirty steps. Problem was that American steps were in different order than those of British girls. American considered a kiss being not very serious but pleasant entertainment. For European ladies the kiss however came as one of the last moves before intercourse. When the overseas boy tried to kiss her on a first date she find herself in very confusing situation. Either she could end the date and show disapproval about such an early kiss or she liked the soldier so much that she invited him to her bed. American was puzzled as well because he did not expect neither sex nor hysterical answer after simple kiss.
Confused persons tend to quickly invent an explanation which they stubbornly continue to believe no matter what. 
Both did everything correctly as they knew it from their culture and still were misunderstood. It's quite easy because the people tend to expect that everyone interpret the world the same. It has one serious consequence. A confused person is usually quickly inventing an explanation (we don't like confusion and we need to find an order) which he or she will stubbornly believe and the more you will try to persuade someone on the contrary the more evidence he will find to support his original idea (which he invented to explain the confusion). When a husband is used for welcoming embrace of his wife inviting him whenever he arrives home and once he doesn't receive it he can easily start to believe that he's being cheated even though his wife had just a terrible day and was taking a rest. The more she's trying to explain it the more confident is the husband that his idea is correct. The wheel of confusion starts to roll and the couple will have it very difficult to find the same reality again.
A scientist researching fleas takes one flea places it carefully on the table and commands: "Jump!" and the flea jump. Then he pull off its leg and commands again: "Jump!" This time the flea doesn't do anything so he notes down: "When we pull off its leg the flea goes deaf."
Anecdote illustrates common misinterpretation by expecting different cause to the problem 

Types of confustion

  • Meaning based on own perspective: He smiles at me because he's in love with me, while he smiles at every one because he won in a lottery.
  • Paradoxes: "Do it as you like, but I would prefer if you do it my way!"
  • Punctuation: "Woman: without her, man is nothing" vs. "Woman, without her man, is nothing."
  • Translation: I love desserts vs. I love deserts. 
Laboratory rats - do they believe to train the researchers?Watzlawick's book shows multiple ways how the confusion begins. If we leave out wrong interpretation of foreign language very common are paradoxes when one sentence ask for something to be done and in the same moment is forbidding us doing it. People also tries to find an order there where is none - e.g. try to guess the numbers to be drawn in the lottery and coming up with many interesting theories. Meanwhile betting companies are happy for steady flow of money. Another confusion can appear via punctuation - misinterpret which action causes the following action which is beautifully illustrated by a mouse thinking that it trained the researcher to bring her food anytime she touches a button while the scientist believes that he trained the mouse to ask for food by touching the same button.
Two children are quarreling about the distance of The Sun from them during the day. "The Sun must be closer to us in the morning, because it's very big, while further at noon, because it's only as small as a rice bowl. Closer object appears bigger." claims the first one. "No, no, no. The Sun is closer at noon, because it's so hot, that you must hide yourself, while in the morning it's still cold and that is why hot Sun must be closer at noon than in the morning."
Taoist story illustrates how well the human can invent solution to something we don't know or understand.
Wu-wei: Sometimes in confusion we unexpectedly find the best solution in no time.
Which path to choose - even from not knowing we can reach the right solutionThere's a bright side of confusion as well. Sometimes in the state of confusion we create the best possible solution out of many possibilities. It happens when we open a thick book on the right page with recipe we wanted to cook or we choose the food we like from a menu written in unknown script. Taoist called it 'Wu-wei' it's a state when we choose the one right solution despite our ignorance of the best logical solution. Through the veils of unknown we seems to be able to achieve real breakthroughs.

Confusion in relationships

Partnership requires more sensitivity in the communication but its usually there that the partners do not comprehend each other. Not because they wouldn't love, but usually because they do. Men and women use different languages and unlike behavior to deal with daily situation. Unfortunately men expect that woman would think the same as they do and vice versa. 
Women and some extrovert men tend to think while talking, while men rather think alone in the quite environment. If a man want to say something he is asking for advice so he expects the same from his lady partner. On the contrary she expects that he would listen attentively and when he stubbornly as a gentleman tries to help her she interpret it that he is not loving her anymore. Read some book about relationship and they are full of examples of men-women confusion. 

Foto: SMercury98 (rats), unzarjones (paths)
Puctuation example: Tomísimo

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