Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
“There’s no way to un-notice something you’ve noticed. Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World includes a number of emails and letters from former students where they’ve made a difference in their own lives, and the lives of others, based upon Sam Sommers’ simple request to see ‘the world differently after realizing just how much situations really matter.’”
“[H]ow many times have we seen the news report in which the coworker, ex-roommate, or fiancée says, ‘I know him and he couldn’t hurt a fly’? And the evidence emerges to prove that the suspect was, indeed, capable of insecticide and then some.”
Author Sam Sommers argues in his new book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World, that, well, situations matter. While this may seem obvious, in actual practice, the contextual aspects of the hows and whys behind events major and minor are often given short shrift with many of us not realizing the impact context has in our daily lives.
By taking a moment to appreciate the various levels of situational influences on our daily observations and interactions, Sommers argues that our business and personal lives can be greatly improved. After reading his book, it’s difficult to argue with him.
A major issue is the “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” (WYSIWYG) manner in which most people look at the world; for example, that guy cut me off, so he must be a total jerk. In other words, how a person acts in one situation is representative of how he acts in all situations. Regarding ourselves, we know that we have reasons for how and why we do something—I cut someone off because I’ve got to get to the hospital—but it’s harder to see the reasons in others.
And the reasons are as varied as they are innumerable. In stark contrast to the previous minute example, consider the very broad cultural differences between people. For example, the author notes that in “the United States, there’s a saying that ‘the squeaky wheel get the grease.’ In Japan, the prevailing fit-it-related axiom is ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down.’” Both views are equally valid and arguably true, yet they’re diametrically opposed to one another and but one example of the countless influences on our and others’ behaviors.
Dr. Sommers has the credentials to back up his theories as a teacher of social psychology at Tufts University where he honed his research and ideas. Despite this academic background, however, he manages to keep the reader’s interest by taking what could easily have been a very dry book and liberally scattering abundant and entertaining anecdotes and case studies throughout.
Equally important is the engaging and conversational tone that, for the most part, manages to be breezy without being irritating (his use of parenthetical interior monologue almost reaches the point of annoyance but he, thankfully, shows more restraint than other recent authors who use parentheticals to the point of exasperation).
Perhaps the most interesting part of Dr. Sommers’ book is his observation in the epilogue that, “Once you start paying attention to the power of ordinary situations, there’s no going back.”
There’s no way to un-notice something you’ve noticed.
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World includes a number of emails and letters from former students where they’ve made a difference in their own lives, and the lives of others, based upon Sam Sommers’ simple request to see “the world differently after realizing just how much situations really matter.”
It’s a valuable lesson.