The other day I genuinely heard an adult human complain after someone mentioned that blueberries were only $2 a punnet. This person felt hard done by because they had paid $5 only a month or two ago. They seemed honestly upset by this $3 differential. For the purposes of this post, I’ll call them Bob.
There’s a couple of interesting things to unpack here.
Firstly, Bob’s frustration didn’t spring from the initial $5 price tag on the blueberries he purchased. In fact, at the time, he was quite happy to pay the money.
Bob only became upset once he realised someone else had been offered a better deal, and felt like he’d been treated unfairly; the Blueberry gods had shafted him, and he wasn’t having a bar of it.
The reason this all seems silly is that of course, Bob hadn’t been treated unfairly at all. The availability of blueberries, like most fruits and vegetables, changes throughout the year. At times when they are less abundant, prices go up. It’s sad that mass supermarket availability has shrouded this commonly understood natural fact, but here we are.
What I find interesting about this whole thing is that while it’s not grounded in any truth, Bob still experienced the same frustration he would have if he had been mistreated. The emotions he went through were based purely on the perception that he had somehow been maligned.
This frustration was only possible because Bob had preconceived assumptions about blueberries, supermarkets, supply and demand. These assumptions informed expectations which did not align with his experience.
By nature, all expectations involve the risk of emotional pain.
It’s easy to laugh at Bob for not understanding that fruit costs different amounts at different times. But before you do, ask yourself; when was the last time you became upset or frustrated because someone didn’t go as I expected it to? When was the last time you experienced road rage despite not being put into any immediate danger? How often are you frustrated when a USB doesn’t go in on the first attempt?
These reactions are as useless as Bob’s being upset by cheap blueberries.
When we experience resistant cognitive dissonance over things which do not threaten the safety or security of our lives, the unpleasant experience of those feelings is by our own design.
Dilute your expectations of the world. It’ll never make as much sense as we’d like it to. And even when it does, you might find yourself sulking over $2 blueberries you have no reason to. Worst of all, you might not even realise that you’re being a fool.
Some people are under the illusion that they can change another person’s mind by being more ‘correct’ than them.
Usually, this isn’t the case.
At least, being correct isn’t the only requirement to changing somebody else’s mind.
One of the best teachers I ever had later admitted to me that one of her favourite things to do in class was to facilitate class discussions that didn’t feel like they were relevant, even though they were.
Sometimes it’s easier to trick people into learning than it is to actually teach them.
When we learn, it’s usually in one of two ways; either we were already primed to learn, and were open to and anticipating new ideas; or we were made to feel like the new idea is something we came up with ourselves.
This means that if you’re trying to pass on ideas, be it as a coach to your team, a communicator to your partner or and teacher to your children, you have consider;
Does the person I’m speaking to want to understand the idea I have to share?
If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how right you are. If you can’t find another way to communicate your ideas, they’ll never be received.
Screaming righteously into the ether is all well and good.
But being able to change someone’s mind by helping them rethink their entire perspective on a problem is that’s priceless.
Especially if you can relinquish the credit and empower them to feel like they got there themselves.