Between the lines

22 Sep
Monty Python's Dead Parrot... two very different views on one (deceased) bird

Monty Python’s Dead Parrot… two very different views on one (deceased) bird

It all seems to easy to get the drift of a situation if one just stops and listens to what is being said. Stated in plain English one feels that one has grasped everything, that circumstances are monochromatic. But life is seldom black and white – it exists in a multitude of greys.

Every situation can be read on multiple levels. First of all, one needs to be aware of the adage that there are at least two sides to every story. I’d go further – there are are at least three, your side, my side, and the truth (which may lean more heavily towards one of the other versions). All history is prone to spin and interpretation. Details are adjusted and reprioritised according to the needs of the writer, whoever they see as protagonist, and whatever outcome they hope to achieve. In their narration, particularly when the facts of a situation may cast them in a bad light, they may leave out details, or present facts without context, thus skewing the interpretation.

A classic example would be to read two reports of a football match (yes, I’m using a sporting analogy!) written by supporters of the respective teams. One would expect a certain bias to be manifest in each report. Both are to an extent truthful, but one perhaps misleading.

Living in the modern era those of us who blog and engage in social networking are at risk of rather over-revealing details about our private lives. On occasion private disputes make their selves known in the social arena and details published are subject to impulse and manipulation. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has checked out both parties in a dispute for their conflicting reports to try and get a fuller picture. Often what isn’t said is as important as what is – reading between the lines becomes key to comprehension of circumstances.

When one chooses not to talk openly about private matters that can lead to confusion too. It may be that someone only receives one side of a story, and then without context or additional data that might skew an allegiance.

I was reminded of this during the last week or so during a conversation with a friend who happened to make a comment that would have been ill-judged had it come from my inner circle of confidants. There was little awareness evident of the complexities with my own dispute, and why would there be? I’ve kept most of the details private except when I’ve needed to share them with individuals. Of course, the argument could be that my version bears scant relation to reality, and without airing ones laundry in public how do I argue that? Simply I don’t. And I don’t have to. I’ve alluded in this column before to my use of supporting evidence to prove a point, and that remains the case. All it takes is the right question (or indeed, any).

A couple of comments were fired in my direction earlier today, but the salvo completely ignored the realities of the last 12 months, various hands that have been played and eventual agreement. Its easy to be presented as the bad man, and negative criticism always sticks in a way that positive comments do not. I’m not defending myself because I don’t need to. Because the truth of the matter is already clearly explained elsewhere.

What good would it do to carry out a spat in public anyway? Next to none. Both parties end up discrediting themselves, and the tit-for-tat that is almost inevitably to follow is deeply embarrassing. I’ve been thrown before when strangers have approached me at events after having read my blogs and profiles and picked up on minor details I had long since forgotten airing; I really don’t want to have them tear me apart for something even more personal.

I have broken the rule before, and learnt to my cost that it was a foolish thing to do. I lost friends over it and got myself worked up over something I had little control over. Emotionally blackmailed into making statements that had no place in public, and statements that I only half-heartedly believed. Its a slippery slope, and attempts to stifle the eruption only begot more.

The one occasion that I did make a statement publicly and should have said more was on a personal/professional matter which saw the end of three years of work and contributed to a bought of depression when the entire project fumbled. The pain has gone, but the lesions remain raw and I’m forever on my guard.

Whatever you think you know, remember that you are only hearing part of the story. A string of social network status updates will give you an impression, but they lack context and explanation. What you hear may be a misrepresentation. Try not to get caught in the middle. Remember that most folk will expect you to take sides (its only natural) and when friends are on the line, little white lies abound. And if you really want to know, why not ask?

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