Change the Way you Process Information by Deploying Discernment

Spock, the Vulcan in Star Trek, operates strictly on logic. He shuns emotions.

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, we are introduced to the android Lieutenant Commander Data. Being a robot, he has no emotions and operates strictly on, er, data.

Spock and Data are characters from science fiction.

We are not.

As human beings, we are emotional beings. (If you break it down, you’ll be amazed how many decisions you make based on emotions. Good salespeople know that.)

But far from being fearful of emotions – and some unbridled emotions can and do get us into trouble – we can harness positive emotions to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others.

Righteous indignation resulted in the launch of MADD – read about it here.

Emotions can cause us to decide on certain actions to take or not to take.

When reacting or responding to a stimulus, we can fly off the handle or we can take a deep breath, calm down and try to see what is not evident to the average mind.

Some refer to this as “discernment.”

Discernment is the ability to judge well, of being able to grasp and comprehend what appears to be murky.

If you walk into a store playing songs with lyrics that demean women, does it mean that it represents the ethos of the store? Do you immediately conclude that this act epitomizes the moral beliefs of the store and its owners and do you then publicly vow never to patronize the store again?

Nothing wrong being young and idealistic. But to be young doesn’t give one the excuse not to pause and analyze; it doesn’t entitle one the license to shoot from the hip, to open one’s mouth before thinking.

The millennials amongst us ought to learn from their elders how they can deepen their understanding of potentially prickly issues. They need to learn how to maintain civility and temperance even in the most incendiary situations. Right to speak does not equate to right to offend and he who speaks the loudest is often simply he who makes the most noise, and may be perceived as an immature, attention-seeking loudmouth full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Recently a storm in the teacup arose when a publication used by an organization engaged to teach relationships to high school students listed phrases commonly heard and what their “real” meanings may be.

A 17-year-old student was so enraged by the publication’s contents that she accused the organization for promoting a rape culture because its publication says that sometimes when a girl says “no” she may actually mean “yes.”

A big brouhaha ensued. Keyboard warriors with too much time on their hands were quick to contribute to the flap by attacking, disparaging and besmirching anyone and everyone connected with the organization. Those involved with introducing the relationship course started scrambling to take cover and repudiate all and sundry who have even the remotest connection to the program. People in leadership positions were quick to blame anyone and everyone; trying to assign the blame instead of fixing the problem. Even a research fellow from the Department of Pharmacology of the National University of Singapore jumped onto the bandwagon for her five minutes of fame and contributed to the cacophony by writing to the press proclaiming “the gender stereotypes in the pamphlet do not reflect either scientific consensus or careful, data-driven analysis. There is, for instance, simply no credible scientific evidence for the view that men are inherently ‘direct’, whereas women’s words cannot be taken at face value.” The PhD holder even cajoled 13 other research scientists from NUS and Yale-NUS to co-sign her letter. Yup, it really does take all kinds!

Good luck to her and her ilk if they are looking to data for answers on how to bridge the communication gap between genders.

I am no textbookish academic perched in ivory towers, and I am not advocating      to build a discriminatory society that alienates people, but speaking from personal experience, after 30 years of marriage, I am no closer to understanding my lovely wife 100%, and I don’t need scientific consensus or data-driven analysis to tell me that.

I do catch some clues of what my wife is trying to communicate by observing her body language and from the things she says.

If she says “We need to talk” it usually means she has something to question me about that I won’t enjoy hearing, like why on earth did I purchase yet another expensive tourbillon that I don’t need and will never use.

If she becomes unusually quiet and says “nothing” when I asked if something’s bothering her I can be sure probably something is indeed troubling her – could be her patients, her siblings, etc.

Sometimes when she says “no” to me, I know she actually and secretly means “yes.” I am sure if I ask her “Can I get you a big diamond solitaire on our wedding anniversary?” she will say “no, please don’t spend money like that” but if I really go and get her a diamond the size of a golf ball, I’m sure she’ll squeal with delight.

This is not based on scientific proof, empirical research or any of those mumbo-jumbo from academia.

I am not talking about sexual stereotyping here, I’m just stating facts. I am relating my own experience with my wife and what I commonly see among other people. The fact of the matter is that men and women are wired differently and we communicate differently. Words cannot always be taken at face value. And just because someone points out some of the common differences doesn’t mean he or she is promoting sexual stereotyping or advocating a rape culture.

Sure, data is important, facts are important but it doesn’t mean that we should not use our wisdom, our common sense, our discernment.

If your wife is upset about something – and it’s written all over her – and you ask her if she’s ok and she says “no” do you take her words at face value and end the conversation there and then or do you probe a little and gently coax her to open up and pour her heart out to you?

If you do the former, you will be no way closer to bridging whatever gap there exists between you two.

If you forgo data and scientific research and deploy intuition, gut feel, wisdom, common sense and discernment, you are likely to foster a better relationship with her.

Imagine if you work as a counselor and you ask your client “Are you ok?” and he answers “I’m fine” but his posture, facial expression and gestures project everything but the fact that he’s fine, do you investigate further and cajole him to open up to you – and in the process helping him – or do you then say “Ok, in that case, goodbye! You may go home now”?

Do not be so quick to jump to conclusions – or you may be jumping to concussions! If you have make that mistake before, pick yourself up and move on. Falling and stumbling is part and parcel of our attempt to learn to walk more steadily. Make a change, a commitment to think things through a bit more calmly and thoroughly. Be astute. Make use of all your faculties to be a better person and a better communicator.

Change the way you process information by deploying discernment, instead of using knee-jerk reactions or shooting indiscriminately from the hip.