Seeing the same thing, but thinking of it differently

What color is this dot? 🟠 Orange, right? Well, maybe. In some cultures it’s described with the same words used to describe shades of red. Individual cultures group colors together differently.

Now imagine that you’re trying to explain to a friend or colleague that when they speak of the color orange, some of the people in the room are understanding red. This can make the presentation confusing since some participants aren’t following. They’ve translated the word “orange” in their mind and are looking for something that looks more like what your colleague would consider yellow.

Your colleague pushes back, completely certain that while this may be true, it’s only because those participants don’t realize what “orange” actually means.

You smile and reassure your colleague that it’s just a matter of different perceptions of the same color. Different categories. We’re all seeing the same thing, but thinking of it differently. You encourage your colleague to overtly define what they mean by “orange” and not simply assume that the “red” perceivers will automatically and without confusion realize what is meant by “orange.”

Your colleague — frustrated by your insistence that there could be another understanding happening in the room and wondering why you’re difficult and obsessed with the wrong use of terms — begrudgingly accepts that yes, fine, it would be useful to spell out the actual real name of the color of this dot as “orange” for those participants who just don’t realize it. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Welcome to my intercultural morning. Some days I’m tempted to ditch it all and become a Fortune Cookie Writer.

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