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The Color of the Dress Actually Matters!

From Kim Kardashian's Twitter

From Kim Kardashian’s Twitter

In case you have been on a deserted island for the past week or decided to go on a non-internet diet, you should know that the internet has been going nuts over a very important social topic. It is the most searched, posted, discussed, trending topic since Thursday. People have divided themselves into two very opinionated sides of the debate. The topic? What color is that dress?!!dress 2

The picture in question (seen to the right) shows either a white dress with gold stripes or a blue dress with black stripes. It is the same picture but people see it completely differently. Below is a picture from Wired.com that shows the original picture in the middle and how some people perceive it on the left and right.

I first saw it as white and gold. I showed it to my staff and they were split down the middle. When I looked at the same picture again later that night, it was definitely blue and black! How in the world did it change?

Photo courtesy of Wired.com

Photo courtesy of Wired.com

There is a complicated reason as to why people perceive it differently. Much of it has to do with the lighting in the background, your location when you see the picture, and the way light is processed in the eye.

However, there is also an important life principle that can be applied to this story.

Dresses in Life

We run into “dress situations” every day in different forms. Let’s think of every event that happens in our day as a “dress”. We see and experience an event in a certain way and are positive about what it is, yet someone standing right next to us is having a totally different experience. Some events that you celebrate may be moments of despair for someone else

An example from a recent event would be the last-second win by the New England Patriots over the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl. For people on one side of the country it was a great moment of celebration while people on the other side experienced a total disaster. So was the Super Bowl itself good or bad? Neither. It was just an event that occurred. But everybody perceives it differently based on their situation and experiences in life.

Just as the perception of the dress color is based on the background lighting, time of day, and your location, your perception of every event is based on your background, stage of life, and location in the world.

Every event that happens in our day is just an event. It isn’t good, bad, big, or small until we run it through our personal filter. That is when it takes on value and gets categorized.

And since no two people are the same, every event is processed differently from one person to the next. Nobody has lived the same life and nobody will experience these events in the same way.

The Application

It is important for us to remember that everybody is seeing things differently. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to see it, just different ways. We get into trouble when we assume that the way we see things is the only way or even the best way. In fact, for me, the dress even seemed to change color when I looked at it later in the same day. Even the way we see things changes over time based on our life experiences.

To be an effective parent, friend, boss, co-worker, teammate, or friend we need to be able to step back and try to see how others may be perceiving a situation. We need to realize that their life experiences are pushing them to see things a certain way. We need to be accepting and validate their point of view. From time to time we need to be willing to say, “Maybe the dress could be blue and black.”

Kris

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3 comments

  1. Excellent post. Sharing this.

  2. Wow Kris, I just love the way you write. it is concise and you don’t drag on to make a point, at the same time your writing has a way of showing me how set in my ways and closed minded I have a tendency to be. First, I am only online because job search led me to it and the occasional email checking and second I must get out of my head more, because I never heard of the dress thing, it kind of makes me feel jealous that people have the kind of time to invest in such kanandrum, the color of a freaking dress! and third but not least, I don’t care what the backdrop is , in what world is that dress any other than blue and black? did I say that I have a tendency for stubbornness as well?
    Ps: I love that you are also a dentist, how Michelangelo of you

    Thank you
    T

    • Too kind as always! And too bad you missed out on the enormous dress debate! How fortunate are we that we live in a world where we have time to worry about stuff like that.

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