Can you make sense of this?
Any one (1) of the five (5) main senses has the potential to, at any point, infringe on others in such a way that creates a problem.
The way I see it, we have countless choices throughout our day and our decisions impact others in ways that (1) connect us, (2) do nothing at all, or (3) disconnect us (divide).
Yep. Just those 3 options.
I described this talk to my kids as “Infringement 101” and it’s about things within their control. Not variables they can’t control. Their skin color. Height. Age. Sex. (and yes, I’m aware arguments exist where each of those can be debated, but I digress).
So, I’ll say this.
Infringement as I’m defining it here is all one-sided (each of us infringe on others throughout our days) and does not account for the other side, which is all based on reactions, or how one reacts.
Think of infringement as the moment someone else notices you exist and are part of their world. It’s basically an activation of someone else’s senses. It’s an encroachment of sorts where you cross paths with other humans and they react, respond or judge based on what you present.
Cool! Well, wait. Which senses?
The five main ones.
Sight. Smell. Taste. Touch. Hearing. (INPO).
Some would argue (validly) there are more senses, but for my take on how they impact each of us I’ll stick with the main ones.
Here’s how I explained it.
If I wear a shirt that has a saying or a brand or a team on it, and others can see or read it, it’s possible someone could compliment me (connect us), ignore me (do nothing), or get offended or take it the wrong way (disconnect us). By putting that shirt in front of them, I’ve infringed on their “sight” sense and it just is.
I can and should do what makes me happy (within reason), but I have to be aware of others beliefs, biases and prejudices and deal with what happens by making the choices I do. We all do.
Okay, back to my point.
Other “sight” infringements could include your hair cut, makeup, tattoos, pants, shoes, jewelry, piercings, purse, facial hair, phone, glasses, your nails, socks, hats, color choices, etc. And, of course, this also includes things that are extensions of us – a meme you share or some written words in a post or a comment, or your place of residence, your neighborhood, your penmanship, the school you choose, a clean room, a type of car, logos you wear, brands you support, etc.
Each choice has the potential to connect, be neutral, or disconnect us. Heck, affinity marketing is based on the “connectedness” and sense of belonging that people crave and it’s extremely powerful as a way of bringing people together.
Oh, and there’s a few other BIG ones as they relate to body language and what people see. A smile. Folded arms. Rolling of the eyes. Eye contact. Tapping of the toes. A perplexed look.
If you want to go ‘unnoticed’, or be neutral, you’d look at each of those above and you’d make choices that are “safe”. If you want to connect with others, you’d wear a vintage Buccaneers shirt (any team, really) and hat to a sports bar in your hometown. By connecting with some, you’ll automatically disconnect with others – perhaps Chiefs fans that are at the table next door?
Now, before I go much further, let me be clear. I’m not saying NOT to infringe, I’m saying with each choice we make we end up with a ripple effect. For those that choose sex appeal, the connections and disconnections are polarizing. You’ll find the extremes both directions. These infringements are what makes life interesting. Without them, we merely exist.
But you have to choose.
And, I’ll say this. Connections are a type of attractant. Disconnects are a type of turn-off. Sometimes a single variable can draw you into someone (perhaps a smell?) or be the exact reason you don’t want to be around them (perhaps a smell?). 🙂
Now, let’s move on to another. The sense of smell (how’d you guess?).
Most people have the ability to smell. Some people have extraordinary abilities to smell and differentiate all types and sources of smell. Some people are naturally attracted to smells and others are turned off simply by the first “wiff” of something. Let’s explore.
The following is top of mind smells we all have choices about that will infringe on others we’re close to. Type of deodorant, no deodorant at all, hand lotion, body lotion, soaps, perfume, cologne, hair products, our breath, our clothing, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, recent foods we’ve eaten, lingering smoke smells (cigarettes or other), animal smells, and, some things that are extensions of us – the smell in our dwelling (dusty, musty or moldy smells), gases, our garbage, candles, scents, etc.
Now, before you go and say I’m thinking way too much about this, and that it’s not that important, focus on any one of the above variables within the smell or sight realm and test the limits. Go to an extreme and see if it garners a connection or disconnection, quickly. Will it be everyone? No, but it’ll be a lot more than what you might expect. Some people keep to themselves and don’t want to interact at all no matter how extreme something is. They just let others go by and keep their “offended-ness” to themselves.
A few more to explore, but I think you get the point.
Taste is a funny one. The foods we eat, the drinks we drink, the substances we consume. The restaurants we choose. The brands we select. The type of cookware we use. What our bowls, cups and plates are made of. Seasonings. Spices. Sweets. Fats. Over time, our ‘tastes’ change and our taste buds can get damaged in ways that alter our likes and dislikes. Infections, medical conditions, nutrient deficiencies, smoking, medications, and nerve damage can all affect our taste buds. So can burning your tongue. Our tastes influence our decisions on where and what we eat. Those choices connect us to others who do what we do, make no difference, or disconnect us from others.
“I can’t believe you eat at that restaurant – their food is awful!” or “Ew. He loves mushrooms? I could never be with someone who eats mushrooms!” or “You drink almond milk too? I love almond milk.” or “I love eating at her house – she’s the best cook I’ve ever met!” or, contrary, “I hate eating at their house, it’s too ‘healthy’ for me!”
Touch. Oh boy. This one will give you the “feels”. Texture of clothing, the smooth or rough skin on your hands, how you like your mattress, what type of sheets you like versus the ones you can’t sleep on, the softness or firmness of your pillow. How your shoes feel. How firm your skin is. How smooth your skin is to the touch. The choices you make about materials, lotions, clothing, and anything that others might ‘touch’ can greatly affect the connect vs disconnect portions of infringement. When you cross over and touch others directly, this is amplified even more. Hugs, holding hands with a sibling (pictured above), a gentle touch on the shoulder, a rough hand, a handshake, a high 5, an elbow bump, a chest bump, a warm embrace, a massage, etc. The list could go on and on.
The ‘moment of impact’ (connection, disconnection, or neutral) happens immediately. A weak handshake turns many people off immediately and distrust is associated, whereas, to others, they think nothing of it. A friendly hug can get ‘creepy’ just by the amount of pressure or how long it’s held. A well-placed hand on another’s in a time of need can have far-reaching effects (pun intended). Touching a stranger in any way when arguing just might set off a series of terrible events.
And, last, but not least, we have hearing.
Hearing or sound, can and does infringe on others very quickly. Nearly as quickly as sight, but scientifically proven to be slower. What we say matters in a number of ways. The words we use. The tone we use. The volume we use. The speed we use. The language we use.
The sounds we make that others can hear infringe as well. How loudly we walk, how we chew our food, how loudly we sneeze, burp or fart. We can easily get others to laugh (connect) or get upset with us (disconnect) just by how we choose to make our noises heard in this world. If we choose to amplify our own voices the more people will see them. Think protests. Think TED talks. Think podcasts. Think music.
Music is another incredible infringer. It has the power to connect or divide within seconds. The style of music opens doors or shuts them just by putting it into a category. Some people won’t listen to anything if it’s “country”. Others want nothing to do with “rap” or “hip-hop”. Others, still, won’t listen to anything if it’s considered “secular”. What you choose to play, out loud, gives others the chance to nod along, sing with you, be inspired, leave the room, look at you differently, or whatever. Again, it gives you the opportunity to connect, divide or make no difference. DeeJay’s know this all too well and learn to “play to their crowd” for this purpose.
And, certainly, music can also connect or disconnect people just by how loud it is. If it’s too loud, it’s really bothersome to some people. Others don’t enjoy it unless it drowns out everything around them. If the bass is too strong, some people can’t stand it and get upset.
It just is.
When we sit at home and do nothing, we don’t infringe on anyone or anything. We just exist. And, that’s okay for some people, if not preferred.
The minute we go out into public or can be seen or heard or smelled in some fashion, it’s game on. We have to be cognizant of our surroundings while finding our own joys. They have to play well together. If the people you’re around hate something about you and you just can’t “be yourself”, find different people to hang with. Life’s too short. If others aren’t willing to accept you for you (that’s the response part of the infringement that I didn’t touch on), either make subtle changes that appease others in the short-run (think not dressing a certain way at a family dinner so as to not rock the boat) or accept what comes with choosing to not care what they’re ‘offended’ by.
We all have some things we can control in our own lives and what I mention here is a mere subset of those things. Each one, as it is exposed to others, comes with a potential to connect, be neutral, or disconnect. Again, it just is.
And, if life’s a dance, let’s look at it this way.
We all get to choose how we dance throughout our lives and who gets to watch to some extent. We don’t get to choose whether those that watch will like it, but we do get to choose some of what influences their decisions. We should learn to dance the dances we want to dance and sit out the others. No matter how much we like our own dancing, someone will always dislike it. Others won’t even know we’re dancing. Dance with those you want to and listen to the music that brings you life, but don’t force it on others. Wear what you want and wear it with pride, but don’t make others accept your choices, just know that they get to choose based on what you show. Let others dance their dance and enjoy the differences. Be cognizant of the fact that the more you care about whatever dance you’re dancing, the more you’ll connect and divide your audience. Dance anyway.
Last, I’ll say this. Being sensitive is merely the awareness of senses. The more we’re aware, the easier it is to understand how we can influence our own lives by choosing across a wide spectrum of topics and deciding whether we want to connect, disconnect or be neutral.
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