I had a conversation with a friend recently about watching professional baseball games. My friend, Lou, said “I can’t stand all the spitting. That’s all I see is constant spitting. Doesn’t that bother you?” My answer was simple, “No.”
When I watch a baseball game, I’m focused on the stance of the batter and how that reflects his concentration and level of anxiety as he anticipates the type of pitch he’ll get from the pitcher. At the same time, I’m intrigued by the thought process and body mechanics of the pitcher as he works with the catcher to establish which pitch he’s going to throw and where he’s going to throw it. Finally, I’m watching how the umpire positions himself to make an accurate call. And all of that tunes me into the emotions of each person, as best as I can connect (interpersonally) to them. I am absorbed by all these factors that communicate a richness I enjoy. The spitting gets very little of my attention.
Although our interests, history, and age influence what we like or don’t like to watch on television, our processing mechanisms and sensitivities also play a role. I’m naturally attuned to the interpersonal and kinesthetic elements, which is reflected in the above description of how I watch a baseball game.
As individauls, our focus is based more on how we process information and the type of natural awareness we possess—how we are wired—and it really is different for each of us.
Lou is very strong kinesthetically but in a much more sensory way. And he is highly intrapersonally attuned. None of this has any bearing on whether or not he enjoys baseball, but it does influence how he experiences the game on TV. He can’t stand the spitting. It physically grosses him out. I see it, but it just doesn’t effect me.
Lou also doesn’t like watching hospital dramas on television. He directly experiences the anxiety of the characters, which is upsetting and emotionally exhausting. I am thoroughly absorbed by the relationships between the characters, trying to anticipate how the relationships will unfold and how they will resolve the conflict they are experiencing.
I could tell Lou that it’s all make-believe and that he shouldn’t get so upset, but that isn’t really very understanding and it wouldn’t work anyway. He knows it’s “only a show.” He could tell me that I’m insensitive and criticize me for watching something so harsh, but that’s not a fair understanding either.
Understanding that we all process information (communication) differently encourages genuine curiosity, where we ask thoughtful, respectful questions and take care not to make assumptions about other peoples experience.