Re: Lovers and Fools and Seething Brains

Jeanne H. Simpson (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 11:05:23 -0600


One of the lessons I have had hammered home in this year of learning about
conflict management and alternative negotiation methods is this: people's
perceptions of a given set of phenomena can vary widely. Perhaps you have
seen the common example used in psych classes of a drawing in which one
can see both a young woman's face and that of a very old woman. If you
show this picture to a group of people and ask them, how old is the woman
in the picture, you will get a range of answers. Some will see the young
woman. Some will see the old woman. Some will see both. Some can't see
both no matter how carefully you point the two out. And some will see a
kiwi bird (yes...really) or an eagle.

When someone gets up a leaves a session, you perceive it as rude rejection
of the reader/speaker's ideas and remarks. It may be that. But it may
also be that the person leaving has to go to the bathroom, has to catch a
plane, has to meet somebody, or is planning to catch the 3rd paper in
another session.

I agree that getting up and leaving may be a direct statement: this
paper, movie, opera, concert, etc. stinks and I won't waste any more time
on it. And it can be an ego-bruising experience for a presenter, if the
presenter insists that this is the only interpretation possible of
someone's leaving the session.

I also think that expecting people to sit through an unprofitable session
(unprofitable by *their* definition) just out of politeness, requiring
them to stay even if it is a painful matter for them, is equally rude,
especially if they have spent a lot of money and left their work piling
up in the hope of having a useful and educational experience at the
conference. It is important, when we do get up and leave for this
reason, to remind ourselves that it is *our* reason and not a deliberate
attempt on the part of the presenter to waste our time.

Now my perception of people getting up and walking out of a session is
that they are getting up and walking out of the session and that that is
the only fact I have and that I cannot draw any reliable conclusions about
their reasons for doing so because I have only one fact.

Jeanne Simpson



The Margin: