This is a true story.
When I was a small boy (honestly I was at one time) my parents always told me that my aunt Marie was a German. This was a little odd since everyone else in the family was Italian (either Sicilian or Neapolitan). Still, my parents wouldn’t lie to me; so I grew up “knowing” that aunt Marie was German.
Forty Five years later, at a family reunion of cousins, I sat next to aunt Marie’s daughter (my cousin Arleen) and asked her, innocently enough, from where in Germany did her mother originate. Arleen looked at me as if I had grown a second head and proceeded to tell me that her mother was “…100% Italian, just like the rest of us.” It took a few minutes of discussion to finally conclude that in referring to aunt Marie as being German, my folks were describing her harsh discipline, strong character, her cleanliness, etc. etc. It seems that these traits, at least to my folks, were all the things which Italians are not!
The thought then occurred to me (and has stayed ever since), what else had I been told that I accepted as fact but either misunderstood, mis-interpreted, or had been mislead by? The answer was… “One hell of a lot“. The things we often take for truth are frequently other people’s opinions or biases, lies, or issues subject to interpretation.
There is a simple and playful way of testing such things. Ask questions for clarification.
“Tell me more about that…” is a great way to produce clarity. “You mean to say that…” will usually result in modifications and produce greater understanding.
They say that children under age 6 ask an average of 45 questions a day; mostly Why questions. By age 45 we tend to ask only four or five questions a day; usually How questions, or What questions. And by the time we are over 65 we usually ask where we left our keys.
Ask many more Why questions, you’ll get closer to the truth… and you’ll feel young!