The Map is Not The Territory

Maps are super useful tools to help us understand the world around us. They help us get around, remember where we’ve been and where we want to go. They help us communicate with other where we are and how to reach us. There are many different types of maps. Most people think of a map of geography to drive or fly from one place to another.

There are other maps also. Language and storytelling are maps of our experience. We use them to communicate to ourselves and others. One way the map messes us up is when we start to think it is the actual experience. It is not the experience, it is a representation of the experience. Just like drawing a car route from LA to NYC is not the same as the experience of driving the route, the language and story we tell or hear is not the exact experience of what’s really going on.

Why is this important? It’s important because often times we forget that the way someone communicates their map with us is a representation of the experience they are having. Even though people are doing the best they can to communicate their experience words can only capture and articulate so much. We must also remember that we have our own map of our experience layered on top of it. So there are two maps we must do our best to objectively observe and make an accurate meaning of.

With this new awareness you can do a few things:

Be respectful of other people’s maps.

Be curious about other people’s maps.

Don’t judge other people’s maps no matter how different it may be from yours.

Ask better questions to clarify what people mean so you can understand their experience better.

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