Pilots in the early days wore silk scarves and goggles. The scarves and goggles, in fact, became icons of open-cockpit pilots, and to this day souvenir designers put them on teddy bears and ceramic turtles so people can immediately identify them as pilots. The scarves and goggles are wonderfully romantic and iconic fashion symbols, aren’t they?

But do you know why pilots wore them? The radial engines of those early planes were notorious for leaking fuel and oil, and since the pilot sat right behind them in the open cockpit, any leaking fluids ended up right on them and in their faces. They used the silk scarves to wipe the oil or diesel off their goggles in mid-flight, so they could see!

This is just one example of how appearances do not measure up to reality. The scarves seem like a fashion statement, or perhaps for warmth, but their appearance belied their true purpose. We can easily make the same mistake today, in judging things from their appearances.

For example, I knew a pastor of a church who once drove a Cadillac. Seem a bit extravagant for someone whose wages are paid by their hard-working parishioners? It was the cheapest car he ever owned; he bought it second hand and got a very good deal on it. He replaced it with a Jeep Cherokee – the most expensive car he’d ever owned. But it didn’t get second-looks and he didn’t put up with any judgement for owning it.

There is a big danger in judging things we don’t really understand by how they appear. Unless you are really “in the loop,” be wary of things that you see or things others tell you. Remember the old adage

“Believe half of what you say, a third of what you see, and none of what you hear.”

There’s a lot of truth in that. Don’t let yourself be spun for a loop over office politics, or rumours and speculation of what management is planning. Steer clear of the gossips and don’t give them any ammunition, that is, don’t say gossipy things to them or even drop hints. This still applies to you if you’re self-employed; don’t believe everything you hear on the news – in particular, speculation and forecasting. A lot of times, those people are only guessing about what’s going to happen and they can cause you a lot of worry that doesn’t do you any good. They are often wrong, something they won’t usually point out in the news at a later date. In some cases, the news can even take on a “gossipy” sound to it, and whenever you get that vibe, be very wary or tune it out.

Practice being slow to form an opinion of someone or something. If something grabs your attention, research it thoroughly before making any conclusions.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

We can fall into the trap of so earnestly wanting to get our point across, we forget to listen to the person we are speaking to. And even when we listen, how often do we really seek to understand? If you find you have issues understanding those around you, slow down and try to truly understand:

  • Where they are coming from.
  • What they are going through.
  • What is their motivation for doing something.
  • What they need or want from you.

Obviously, the answers to these questions vary greatly depending on who you are having communication trouble with. Be objective as you listen, as if you were a detective trying to solve the case, and don’t take anything personally. Once you feel like you understand the other person – why they are wearing that silk scarf – then you can “seek to be understood.”

(Photo credit: Understanding Road Signs via Shutterstock)

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