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November 4, 2000: your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect


I really hate it when I'm accused of not seeing something from somebody else's point of view when it's fairly clear that the problem is that nobody else is willing to consider my POV.

I recently did something in front of somebody which that person perceived as wronging a third party. This person, being friends with the third party, communicated it to the third party; the third party also perceived it as a wronging, and was hurt by it.

I attempted to explain to the first person that I didn't think communication about the incident to the third party was appropriate, since the only outcome was hurting the third party. This person perceived it as an attempt to shift blame for my wrongdoing off of me. In effect, it was as if I was saying "you shouldn't have communicated that, because then I could have gotten away with it".

Now, I can understand that if this person really felt like it was wrong in that way, they don't feel I should "get away with it", and that that might somehow compel them to communicate to the third party. However, in truth, because I don't perceive my actions as having been wrong in the first place, it's not, from my POV, about getting away with anything at all.

Now, the fact of the matter is that the third party was hurt by the actions (or by hearing about them), so, sure, maybe it would be better if I hadn't taken those actions for the sake of not hurting the third party. That doesn't make my actions wrong, though; lots of actions (or inactions) do harm to people: consider people you don't know--do you give all but the barest minimum of your income to charity?

Unfortunately, I can't effectively communicate any of this to either of the parties. They are totally wrapped up in their perspective under which I must be wrong, and so not only is my original action judged wrong, but my attempts to follow it up with further discussion are judged on the basis that my original actions must be wrong--e.g. the aforementioned getting away with it.

My attempts to communicate with both parties about the situation, in fact, have mostly seemed to resolve in them getting upset even though all I'm attempting to do is face the issues rationally. With both parties, I've been accused of intentionally trying to upset them, when all I was trying to do was understand their POV (rationally) by asking them questions about the rightness and the wrongness of the situation and related ones.

I can't even tell what exactly is getting them upset (and they don't respond to point-blank questions on the topic either) when we talk about it.

In my experience, conflicts of these general sorts tend to arise out of a different belief about the reality of a situation: due to a miscommunication or due to a difference in perception. I strongly doubt that our moralities about this sort of thing are that different, so it seems likely to me that they are seeing something in the situation that I'm not, or vice versa. It would be healthier for all concerned if we could eradicate that conflict, bring us all closer to the same perception of the situation.

That leaves me two avenues: understand it from their point of view, or have them understand it from my point of view. Yet neither seems possible. Simply trying to get one of them to attempt to offer some explanation for why my action was wrong simply leads to a response to the effect that if I can't see for myself why it was wrong they don't even want to talk to me. (And that's in trying to get them to explain why they perceive it as wrong, not from me attempting to explain why I don't perceive it as wrong.)

In fact, to even get far enough in the conversations that they started getting upset at me, I started by lying and accepting that what I did was wrong, simply because otherwise no conversation was about to occur at all. And then one of these persons accuses me of not being willing to see things from other people's POV?


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