Sticks & Stones..or Panning for gold amongst the effluent

Someone asked this question “Do you care what other people think?” in a forum I belong to today and that got me thinking. We are all familiar with childhood phrase “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Most of us have also been exposed to the idea that we create our own realities1 by the way we interpret the world. However, as I have mentioned elsewhere, there are some fundamental drives2 at work in our lives, and a very powerful one is the need to have our contribution and worth (significance) recognised by others. We are particularly vulnerable to those who we either care for or respect, or are in the power of.

It is a very advanced human being that can take in their stride others’ harsh, and perhaps false, judgments and not feel anything. Another aspect of this is when people say things about us they are telling us something about themselves and their experience of us. We can see ourselves and our actions through these ‘mirrors’ and whilst there will certainly be distortions there, they will give us more information that we had before. Mankind is a social creature and we need to understand how our actions are perceived and felt by others, especially if we need to influence them, and most of us do both need and seek to influence others.

There is a delicate balance to be found between burying our heads in the ground and ignoring nasty or painful data coming back to us and realising that amongst the muck might be the odd nugget of gold we need to pan for.

Of course this has all been written from the perspective of us as the central character in the drama with the “Slings and arrows of outrageous destiny” flying towards us. It would be just as true to say that we are just as often guilty of making those judgements and sharing them with others. Mostly, we all reside in glass houses and stone throwing is a dangerous hobby!

“Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving.” William Shakespeare

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln


  1. Reality model, start here, then here
  2. Fundamental drives:
    1. Certainty (The desire to know and feel certain about important aspects of our life)
    2. Uncertainty (The desire for variety and adventure that makes our life interesting)
    3. Significance (The desire to be highly regarded and recognised by others)
    4. Love/Connection (The desire to give and receive love and experience fulfilling relationships)
    5. Growth (The desire to grow and evolve physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually)
    6. Contribution (The desire to share from the heart and contribute beyond ourselves)

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6 Responses to “Sticks & Stones..or Panning for gold amongst the effluent”

  1. SarahArrow says:

    Another golden nugget 🙂

    view this person’s profile “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

    Good quote smile

    How many people take the time to see the tree? are are we trained to look at the shadow and neglect to see the tree? Or do we grow into the habit?

    It is a very advanced human being that can take in their stride others’ harsh, and perhaps false, judgments and not feel anything. indeed it is, and part of the development process is to know and be accepting of that.


  2. Knowing is part of the journey; using that knowledge is another step. It certainly takes time and patience and perhaps some caring to look for the ‘tree’

    Part of the process is learning from feedback and finding better ways to communicate and perhaps to be.

  3. barrie_c says:

    Is this moving from effect to cause?

  4. Barrie, I am not sure if I have fully grasped your point, so do elaborate. However, if you are saying that we need to examine how we might have a hand in causing the reaction / response then i agree with you. If we are just victims of others nasty tongues then there is nothing we can do, but if we ask “How might I have triggered this response?” Or even “What might cause a person to react like that?” there is a chance that we can move on and make progress

  5. barrie_c says:

    We see other peoples behaviour. What we don’t always think about is, in that persons mind, a thought and feeling preceded that behaviour. Yes we may have said or done something that caused the other person to refer to their map of reality, think, feel and react.

    I have been literally shocked when someone I interviewed and employed got in touch recently. He said he has benefited a lot from the experience of working with me. Even getting his last recent six month contract based directly on what he learnt working with me. He has helped with a few really techie answers to my questions recently. However, he is still carrying in his mind a reaction to something I said in the interview. 11 years after the interview. It may even be holding him back from achieving what he really wants in life. I have in turn helped him with the subject, his CV and approach to applying for jobs. We are not aware of the big, huge impact we can have on other peoples lives.

    I have been bullied a lot in my life. Physically, emotionally, psychologically and by words. My family’s belief was that it was character building. We learn to survive and benefit from adverse circumstances. There is some truth in this in that we appreciate good times, good relationships. I could have done without the bullying though…….

    I am 6′ 1″ weighing in at 17 stone. My size alone can intimidate people. I have a “dry” sarcastic wit. I am not soft. I am relatively a gentle giant, however, it takes other people some time to appreciate what sort of person I am. So there is a difference in how other people behave depending on how well they know you.

    Cause and effect? The shadow is the effect, the tree the cause. If you want to get to know someone look for the “tree” or cause.

    I hope this helps to clarify the point I was trying to make Richard.

    Barrie Cripps

  6. Barrie

    Thank you for sharing your stories. I agree we don’t and to some extent can’t, know what is going on in others minds. We can say something apparently innocuous and it triggers something that happened years ago and they respond from that place.

    I think there are two important elements to these situations:-
    1. Noting us, and our reactions. Gaining insight into why we react as we do and dealing, and owning that, and
    2. Doing the same for others, and helping them with this process.
    Doing this helps work through the sh*t mine we all have shares in!

    We need to take responsibility both for how we feel about,and respond to, things and notice how we impact others and have sensitivity towards them and their reactions.

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