Wednesday, July 11, 2018

#CyberPD Week 2 – Lenses Color Our Perception of the World

The inspirational community of #CyberPD is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies for Teach Social Comprehension by Sara Ahmed.   If you are interested in joining the study, check out our amazing facilitators, Cathy's post here or Michelle's post here.  Here is the information for the rest of the book study:

This may not be a revelation for many of you but bear with me for a convoluted reflection.

Two years ago, I was introduced the Gallup’s Clifton Strengths. My new campus is a Strengths-based campus, which means freshman and transfer students are provided codes to complete the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.  This assessment consists of 177 paired statements that asks the test taker to select the one most like them. After analysis, which has been refined over 40 years, the person is provided their top 5 Themes, with personal insights on how they work together.  These themes answer the question “How do you absorb, think about and analyze information and situations? In other words, what lenses are you using to understand the world.

I took the assessment and my top 5 are Input – Learner – Intellection – Activator – Positivity.  In short, according to Gallup, I 1) crave knowing more, 2) are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions, 3) have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve, 4) can make things happen by turning thoughts into action (but can be impatient), and 5) am upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.  When I read my report, so many habits, inclinations, and decisions in my life made more sense.  But, the biggest revelation was that these themes guide the way I view the world, and not everyone sees and interacts with the world similarly.  For example, with Input/Learner/Intellection bundled together I LOVE questioning, learning, and growing.  I constantly crave new experiences and ideas.  I have a million questions in my head every day. But, guess what, not everyone does.  My husband, who is basically the polar opposite of me, can be exhausted by me.  This clearly can lead to conflict – not because the other person is being mean, stubborn, or contrary – it is because they literally see the world differently than I do.  I’m more often than not, wearing rose colored glasses, where others view the world through other tints.

What has this to do with this week’s chapters?  First, microaggressions.  To start with full disclosure – I am a white, heterosexual, middle class white woman, who might have worked her way through college, but my entire childhood was filled with expectations of literacy, engaged citizenship, and higher education. In short, I am privileged.   When I joined the Army Nation Guard, I felt a few slings of sexism and harassment, but compared to my colleagues of color, different sexual orientation, race/ethnicity etc. I had it easy.  Microaggressions are easy to miss, because my privileged lens doesn’t pick up on it.  

Have I inflicted microaggressions on others? After reading this chapter, I think it is an unequivocal yes.  Have I assigned identities to others without knowing their real stories? Absolutely. Have I allowed a typical identity label to bias my thoughts and interactions with someone? Unfortunately, yes.

Second – Our News – My lenses make some things UTTERLY important to me, but they have no bearing on others.  The question I have on my mind right now may feel like it needs an immediate answer, but when the person I’m interacting with has just gotten bad news, is on a way to a meeting, or is writing an email – my question is secondary, as best. I need to be mindful of this as I have barreled into situations with my agenda, rather than recognizing other people’s “news”.   This has so many implications for my work with both undergraduate and graduate students.  I need to know their news to know what is important to them.

So, where do I go from here?  I hold fast to Maya Angelo’s quote, “I did then what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.”   In my intellection head, I know that I do these things – I need to move my mind, heart, and spirit to do better – each and every day. I need to be constantly cognizant of what lenses I’m bringing into an interaction and recognize that the other person is wearing their own – and honor their lenses to be able to understand it. This book has been a wonderful reminder of the importance of this!


  1. I love how you connected the learning in these chapters to your strength assessment. I find it so helpful to know and understand how I work and interact with others, not just for this knowledge alone, but for the awareness of how this affects my relationships. I can do better when I can look at myself critically. Thanks for this post.

  2. Margaret - I've been interested in personality/talent inventories since I had the opportunity to do the Myers/Briggs as an undergrad (ENFP, BTW). When I got my Strengths report, that was actually one of the characteristics associated with the theme of Input - introspection and interest in knowing oneself better. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Very honest self assessment! I think these are where we experience our own growth. I too sometimes get caught up in my own agenda and my ow priorities and forget that everyone has their own. I have to be really conscious about honouring that in others.

  4. My husband and I talked about microaggressions yesterday. Ok. I talked at him about microaggressions. I started just as Sara would by asking him if he had heard the word before. :) He hadn't! Anyway, we are opposite too. When we were younger, our different windows or lenses to the world created some challenges for us. But in the past 15 years, I have come to rely on his take to provide me with a more rounded view of the issues I face in my job (and life). In asking him for his perspective, I have continually worked on identifying my biases.

    Do I still make bad decisions or say the wrong thing? Yes. I am a work in progress.

    Thanks for sharing on a personal level. I appreciate it. :)

  5. Oh, the lenses we wear. I suppose the first step is knowing we wear them. Like you, I wear of a lens of privilege. I've been fortunate to become more aware of this thanks to books, Twitter, an education, working with families from different backgrounds, and my youngest daughter. ;o) The discussion about microaggressions was of great interest. It's uncomfortable to know we may say or do something that hurts someone else because of the lens we wear. As I listen to others, read social media, or follow the news, I'm often surprised at some people have no idea of their privilege and are unable to see things from another perspective. Hopefully, through conversations like these, we will all continue to raise our awareness and grow in our understanding of others.