Anytime I walk away from my work computer, I lock it. Within seconds, a lockscreen image pops up. I haven’t personalized it, so it rotates a variety of images, usually beautiful scenery from around the world. Sometimes I pay little attention to the image, but other times I try to guess the location. My accuracy is no higher than 50 percent.
Recently, within seconds of locking the computer, I was surprised by an unexpected scowl of a badger. Unlike the image on this post, the badger head consumed the majority of the image. Since I have large monitors, that badger looked at me up close and personally. Of course, the badger wasn’t in person, so my reaction wasn’t as drastic as it might have been, but it prompted me to think of how I might respond to other unexpected scowls.
Let’s be honest: we all encounter unexpected scowls. Some are face-to-face, but we don’t have to see the scowl on someone’s face. Sometimes we sense it through a message or post comment. I’m not alone, right?
So, seeing that sudden what-I-perceived-to-be scowling face prompted me to think of how I respond to the real life scowls, and I think I’m inconsistent. I’d like to think I am patient and merciful enough to give people the benefit of the doubt—and my actual reaction often is, but my initial assumption and attitude? I see a comment or post and think, “Are you still stuck on that? Quit whining. Open your eyes.” Then I remember, I don’t know the person’s motivation. I don’t know the sources they’ve checked. I don’t know the struggles they’ve had. I don’t know if they are even scowling. I reread it. Could it mean something different than my initial assumption? Could some of my comments and messages be misunderstood? Yes, and yes.
The in-person scowl is a bit different, because we might be expected to respond. But we can still pause. We might be in a group, and the conversation multiplies the scowl or escalates in tone much more quickly than our process and response. But we can still pause. One of my go-to strategies in those types of situations is to try to pause while shifting my perspective, considering it more as a third-person observer than a direct participant. It’s just a moment, but it often helps me consider the dynamic of what might be happening. It doesn’t mean I’m correct, but the pause always helps.
The pause is important. I don’t know if it affects others’ scowls, but it certainly keeps mine in check.