Allison Burney

"To live will be an awfully big adventure." - Peter Pan

What “Taking a Second Look” Really Means (And Why We Should Do It More Often)

The other night, I was scanning my Facebook feed when I came across a picture that my boyfriend had shared.

The image, which immediately caught my eye, featured silhouettes of five human bodies, with heart symbols shrinking in size from left to right, while the corresponding brain symbols grew in size dramatically.

My eyes were immediately drawn to the brain versus heart comparisons, noticing how as the brain grew, the heart seemed to shrink.

I quickly jumped to the conclusion that the author was making a statement: the world’s dumbest people have the biggest hearts, while the smartest people have the smallest hearts.

The Mind Goes Wild

This interpretation didn’t sit well with me at all.

In fact, it made me a little angry. And the rampage began…

What a sweeping generalization that is! Not every “genius” in this world is heartless! And having the smallest brain doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have the biggest heart, either! This is ridiculous. Who would believe this!?

I also began to wonder why he would post something like that. Surely he can’t really think this is accurate, I started to tell myself. Is he really that judgemental?

I almost wrote it off, rationalizing that it wasn’t something worth starting a potential argument over. But I couldn’t seem to let the image go. I would continue scrolling through my newsfeed, only to go back to that image and attempt to interpret it yet again.

I must have missed something, I kept telling myself.

But when I’d looked closely at the image a few times, and still hadn’t come up with any other explanation for what it could possibly mean, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Curiosity Kicks In

I copied the image and sent it to him.

“What does this picture mean, in your opinion?” I asked him, half curious, half accusatory.

In the space between asking the question and him typing his response, I found myself dreading what his answer would be. It was actually kind of fascinating.

There I was, staring into some stupid computer screen, actually hoping that his response wouldn’t mirror what I had seen in the image – because that would mean that he actually was as narrow-minded and judgemental as I had been dreading.

Seconds later, when his explanation about how he interpreted the picture appeared on my screen, I recognized the problem.

I was the one who had been narrow-minded. I was the one who had misjudged everything – the image itself, the interpretation of the image, the author’s intent, and the person who had shared it.

My mistake was made crystal clear when I read his take on it:

It means as we travel further in the world our opinion and openness changes. When we are little we don’t see race, colour, gender, evil, hatred, crime, famine. We believe the world is free and everything is good. As we get older, we start to close our hearts because our heads get full of opinions and views.

Wow, I replied, taken aback by such deep and thoughtful insight.

I soaked up his words like a lifeline, breathing them in deeply and letting them resonate.

What I Missed

It turned out, I had missed something.

In this case, I had overlooked a part of the image itself. For all the times I’d studied it, I still had never noticed that the body silhouettes were also growing in size from left to right across the image, depicting a human growing up.

This one detail I’d completely overlooked changed the entire meaning of the image in a big way.

He then reminded me of something I’d once told him:

Sometimes you have to slow down to see the whole picture, or you might miss something.

This had been the perfect example of doing just that. And he was absolutely right.

Ask More Questions

In the end, though, I was glad I’d asked him his perspective on it.

Yes, it made me feel pretty sheepish about the reaction I’d had to the whole situation momentarily, but the reminder I received was monumental.

No two people will ever see something and interpret it the same way. No two people will ever even see the same “thing” they appear to be looking at.

Because that’s not what we’re made for. We’re different for a reason. We all have unique perspectives and views and interpretations for a reason.

And this is not a problem – until we forget this, and view our own perspective as the only “valid” one.

Big Reward for a Simple Action

Asking somebody how they see something as opposed to making assumptions about what they see and why they see it that way isn’t always easy – but it’s definitely worth it.

That night, I found that this approach served me much better than my old way of judgement and self-righteousness.

For asking a simple question, I was rewarded with a fascinating conversation, an enlightening lesson, and a deeper connection with another human being.

Does it get any better than that?


What have you been assuming lately instead of asking? What stops you from seeking another’s perspective?

Share in the comments below.

About Allison Burney

I’m a coffee-addicted writer with a passion for anything and everything travel or adventure-related. I love reading, both for pleasure and to learn something new. I’m on a mission to never stop learning, growing, challenging myself, and being the best me I can be.

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One Reply

  1. Jeremy

    Wow! Thank you for sharing such a powerful reminder and lesson. Your courage to look within and ask as you did is inspiring. Great writing Great sharing.

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