Perceptions are the junk drawer of our mind. 

What we see, hear or read help us create our understanding of the world and its workings. As we learn, we take our many observations and file them away. For most things, the filing logic is organized and orderly and allows us to carry on with our daily life. For other items, those that don’t fit neatly in the system, we place them in a drawer filled with odds and ends that we don’t choose to toss.

Often, it’s when we pull things from the junk drawer that we get ourselves in trouble. 

I think you know what I mean. If you don’t, read the blogs or the comments on social media. Therein lies the greatest unloading of junk drawers known to man. Something happens in the community and without pause or reflection, a whole diatribe of perception rolls forth. Someone had a bad meal at a restaurant or was cut off in traffic and POW! – the drawer unloads. “Yeah, I ate a bad meal there too, about a year ago” or “I saw a car like that one too.” It’s a phenomenon that I like to call the human dogpile. For some reason, certain people just cannot resist the urge to jump on top with yet another bad review or condemnation.

It would seem that online communications follow a different set of rules than face-to-face communication. The statements that are made are hurtful, divisive and I struggle to understand why the comments are even offered. It certainly isn’t providing a solution, rather just fueling discontent. 

Where did we learn this behavior? What causes us to slip to the negative so quickly? I’m sure most of us heard from our mom, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.” So why do we pile it on? Do we need to dump our junk drawer that badly? 

I’m a big fan of old adages and one of my favorites (beside the mile in their moccasins one) is that “Condemnation without investigation is the highest form of ignorance.” When Einstein coined that phrase, he was likely taking heat for his theory of relativity from a guy who was sure that Model T’s were just a passing fad. It’s hard to pass judgment on or make factual statements about something you know little or nothing about. Yet we humans constantly do.

The words that we use and the things that we say are powerful tools. With carefully thought out and positioned statements, we can educate, enlighten and empower people. Done carelessly, a statement can castigate, humiliate and seriously deflate people. And once those words are out there, they can never be taken back.

The perceptions that we place in our junk drawer are placed there because we don’t know enough about them to know if they are correct. Using those perceptions to arm our argument is akin to spelling with numbers. It may make sense to you, but not to anyone else.

Here’s a suggestion for how you can manage your junk drawer. Seek to fully understand the perceptions. Educate yourself – don’t allow others to do it for you. If they can be validated, put them into another folder – if not, offer them up. Don’t let false perceptions weigh you down and certainly don’t unload them on others. You’ll feel better and be better for it.

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