Living with Interpretations

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

~C.S. Lewis

We all live in two worlds; an outer world where we interact with others and an inner world where our thoughts, feelings, needs, and desires originate.

Our outer, social, world is everything that happens around us, and our inner, conscious & less conscious, world is everything that happens inside us.

These two worlds are, at the same time, completely distinct and intrinsically linked

In fact, we all live in an “interpretation” of what happens around us; we all “decode” the sights, sounds, smells, etc. around us through filters we have developed.

Of course, growing up we are all equipped with some similar filters; we learn that an outstretched open hand is a sign of welcome, that a smile is a sign of friendship, that a nod of the head means yes, etc.

Even though we all have some common filters, we all develop, in our formative years, our own personal filters; two people hearing someone say the same phrase at the same moment will often have different interpretations of what was said; likewise, someone’s body movement or behaviour, will be, often, interpreted in different ways by different people.

We all know that sound doesn’t exist as such, it’s “simply” the process of molecules bumping into each other in patterns, the wiggling of little hairs inside our head, the translation into electrical signals and then interpretation by the brain.

The same can be said for almost every “piece of information” that makes its way into our inner world; anything that we see, touch, hear, smell and feel we will interpret with both our “common” filters and our “personal” filters.

This leads us to have similar, but different, interpretations of what is going on around us. The dog charging towards two friends could be interpreted as “dogs are dangerous, runaway” or “I love dogs, go fetch the stick”, depending on their respective filters.

Many of the filters we developed in our formative years were outside our control; most of us learned that, “lambs are gentle & wolves are vicious”, that “butterflies are pretty & spiders are ugly” and that “princesses are beautiful & witches are wicked” – not to mention a lot of gender, colour, race, religion and national filters, all of which impact how we interpret our environment.

However, as adults we can question ourselves when perceiving, interpreting, and reacting to our external worlds; we can try to see things without our filters, we can try to understand other people’s filters and we can try to imagine how others may interpret the same situation.

Remember, No one else but you thinks in your brain! you always have the ability to change what you think and feel, the trick is to become aware of it

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

~Viktor Frankl


Bob Larcher
Bob Larcher
Bob Larcher is an independent leadership development consultant; he has been designing & delivering personal, team & leadership development programs for almost 35 years, both in English and in French and his clients include Blue Chip corporate giants, Charities, Start-ups, and the Public Sector. Bob is also a visiting lecturer at several French Business Schools. Since his first leadership seminar in 1986, Bob has designed and delivered in excess of 3000 days of training & coaching. His background is in Outdoor Management Development and he was previously a shareholder of a major player in the UK market; he is an Accredited Practitioner of the UK Institute of Outdoor Learning and a member of the panel reviewing articles for their journal, “Horizons”. He is based in Toulouse in France but works all over Europe. Bob is an accredited Insights Discovery Personal Profile user, an accredited Integrated Leadership Measure user and a Master Trainer in Mental Toughness. He also designs customized 360° leadership & management evaluations Bob is passionate about helping people to discover, develop and deploy their leadership capacity in order to enable them to drive the personal, organizational and societal transformations they are involved in.

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  1. Making a choice implies in itself a change in the current state of things. And it is precisely the resistance to change and the fear of responsibility that it entails that blocks our choices. Taking responsibility for changing something in one’s life is a risk that often anguishes us. Being responsible means being able to answer for the consequences of one’s actions and choices, to oneself and to someone else. It therefore means making a commitment, taking the risk of making a choice, which changes the present and that we do not know where it will lead us in the future, all this of course is not easy, and to be able to do so, it is necessary to have a sincere dialogue with oneself, to understand what you really want. In an authentic and real path of growth, an authentic dialogue with oneself cannot be missing, without masks and defenses, because only by looking inside ourselves honestly, will we be able to make choices that are truly ours.