Interpreting your observations

To be an effective observer of the human condition we walk a fine line. On the one hand, observation without interpretation is useless; yet on the other hand, interpretation without verifiable evidence is dangerous. When we observe a situation or interaction, our mind naturally interprets it based on the model of communication with which we are familiar

It is more useful to consider three interpretations for a given situation.

To know which interpretation is of value we need to generate several possibilities that could explain the behavior or situation we have observed. In the graphic below, the world of interpretations is separated from reality. When event “X” occurs we discipline ourselves to seek three possible explanations: Y1, Y2, Y3.


Once we have three possible interpretations, we ask, “How would we know which interpretation is the more accurate one?” To answer that question we go back to reality and explore, “If Y1 is accurate, what would we observe next in reality?” “If Y2 is accurate, what would we observe next in reality?” and, “If Y3 is accurate, what would we observe next in reality?”  

A person with only one interpretation (Y1) is trapped in their perception; s/he is operating within a closed system.

A person with two interpretations, Y1 and Y2, has a dilemma.

An observer with three possible interpretations has choice and freedom from emotion.

When there is no evidence to support any interpretation, “circular thinking” tends to occur. If two interpretations have the same evidence then there is no distinction between the interpretations. The valid interpretation is the interpretation that best predicts for “What is likely to happen next?”

The ability to look at a problem from multiple perspectives increases our ability to address the situation: reframing the problem increases the pathways to possible solutions.

Michael Grinder

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