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December 11th, 2020
The greatest barrier to understanding between people is buried within the chemistry of perspective. Handing a 3 year old a weighty tome with fine print that describes the fragility and varied hormetic responses capable by different structures of society and biology is.. pointless. The perspective a 3 year old is of a composition that is totally unfit for dense reading replete with vocabulary and concepts that are worlds apart from the one being explored by a 3 year old mind. We recognize this difference easily enough, even if we do it with an incorrect air of superiority regarding what someone is or isn’t ready for.
Something related is occurring when we give a mind-blowing book to a friend and their overall reaction is casual and fairly unimpressed. In such circumstances chemistry forms a good analogy. Some compounds, when mixed, will create a reaction. Sometimes that reaction can be fairly spectacular, as when some Francium is dropped in water. The reaction is a legitimate explosion. Switch the Francium for oil, and there’s no reaction whatsoever. In fact, the two have a kind of anti-reaction and refuse to even mix.
Some books, ideas, films, even people can feel as though they’re made of Francium when they are dropped into the pool of one’s mind. Others are like oil.
But the crucial difference between the chemistry of perspective and actual chemistry, is that our mind changes over time. What once inspired pure obstinance in our mind can one day be welcomed in. Perspective is like a chemical that can change it’s own composition and by doing so create beneficial reactions with new things that once had no effect.
Often none of this nuance is on the table when people are trying to communicate with one another. Most communication and attempts at persuasion resemble a crude, brutal and ultimately ineffective kind of palimpsest. We try simply to overwrite someone else’s thoughts and opinion with our own by talking louder, by repeating ourselves. Such misdirected attempts often just create frustration and anger.
One way to realize the utter futility of such attempts is to recognize that there’s no concrete body of text or belief that exists inside of someone somewhere where we might erase and rewrite. A person’s beliefs, their words and their actions are an emergent property of a complex process of perspective as it functions through time. This isn’t to say that perspective can’t be influenced, but only to point out that like chemistry, the agent of change requires a certain composition that will be in sync with the chemistry of that perspective.
This is why it can be so powerful within the realm of persuasion to first ask questions: doing so can reveal the chemistry of another’s perspective and provide clues for what sort of message or information it will react best with. Without knowing the details of another’s perspective, our message has little better chance than the deluded alchemists of old who thought they could figure out how to create gold by mixing together different chemicals and metals.
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