I was watching an earlier episode of MONK today. In one scene the germaphobe investigator enters the headquarters of a marathon to gather information. Knowing he is going to be expected to shake hands – and maybe even sweaty hands! – he has his assistant searching through her handbag for the sanitary wipes. The handshaking is starting. The searching is getting a bit frantic. And just as the last handshake is finished, the handwipe is passed to Adrian Monk and relieved, he wipes other people’s germs off his hands. The camera pans. Brows are furrowed. People are starting to get very angry. And the last man that had his hand shaken blows up at Monk. You see, the last man was African-American; everyone else was Caucasian. The characters on the show that are Monk’s friends (and fans of the TV show) understand that this wasn’t a racial statement in any way. But these 5 characters who just met the man don’t know his history and wouldn’t listen to the assistant’s assurances that this was not racially motivated. The misconception was set and no one was going to change their minds.
This isn’t something that only happens in tv scripts. Misconceptions happen in everyday life, even among friends. I was given a Family Four Pack of tickets to the San Diego County Fair this year. One person that I would have considered asking along had a work commitment that day, so I asked three other friends. Through a series of miscommunications, the person not asked has accused me and the others of conspiring against her. I understand the hurt feelings. I can see (now) how things have looked through her eyes and that the Fair day was the final straw. And like the strangers at the marathon headquarters in the tv script, she is not interested in listening to any other perspective – her mind is made up.
Unlike the fictional characters, this is someone I enjoy having in my life. Someone I appreciate. Someone who makes me laugh. While she and I aren’t fast friends – we don’t call each other up and talk on the phone and our social interactions are limited to a handful a year – we do enjoy each others company and see each other almost every day of the week on a regular basis while she is at work. Monk could walk away from the strangers and their misconceptions don’t change anything in his life. I don’t have any desire to just walk away from this person. But while she is convinced that I am deviously plotting against her, I have no idea what I can do to bring back our relationship. Possibly only time can do that.
Have you ever been caught up in a situation that seemed different to someone else than it did to you? How has it affected you (or the other person)? What have you done to show another point of view and bring a misconception back into perspective?