I was in the middle of facilitating a leadership training at a high school last week when I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door to the library to find a young man, visibly frustrated, standing on the other side. Looking me directly in the eyes, he asked, "Can I talk to you?" I stepped outside.
He began to explain that he found my Instagram and saw a post I made about being at his high school with the caption of "LOL- What is my life?" He explained how upset he was when he saw that post because he loved his high school and didn't really appreciate people looking down on it. He very pointedly asked me, "Is it so bad here you had to say 'what is your life?'"
I was flabbergasted. I took a step back, asked him his name and then simply thanked him. I thanked him for bringing to my attention an egregious oversight in how words can be misconstrued.
I told him that I could absolutely see how he might perceive what I said to be offensive. Then I explained their true meaning. The picture was of a permission slip that said "Jason Wetzler Leadership Day" and it was so surreal seeing my name as an EVENT, I simply couldn't believe how blessed my life was in that moment, hence the comment, "What is my life?"
He exhaled, a weight clearly lifting off of his shoulders. We shook hands, both leaving the interaction better than we were before.
What we say and how we say it is important, but often times no matter our intentions, our words can be perceived in a completely different way than we intended. Our words and actions quite literally shape the reality of those receiving and perceiving them. This is especially true in the world of social media. Often times we post or repost content we view one way without truly reflecting on the other potential ways that content might be perceived. This could shape a reality regarding our own existence that we may not even be aware of.
As parents, teachers, leaders, and those with influence, we must be aware of the potential perceptions of our words and actions. By weighing the potential outcomes with the reality we intend to create, we can be sure our actions and words are positive and purposeful.
Choose one negative perception you have and pinpoint how it became a reality for you. Then, decide whether or not you should change your perspective.
When you perceive someone's actions or words as negative or offensive, do you confront that person like Nick did? Or do you simply live with the reality they created?
"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer."