We are all familiar with scars: remnants of some event in the past that left a mark in the present. There are physical scars: from that time you fell from your bike, or when you got burned after accidentally touching the oven. Sometimes, it is also psychological. When someone you trust betrays you in the end. Hearing vitriol from others that is directed at you.

Whether manifesting physically or psychologically, all scars have this in common: they affect our conscious and subconscious behavior from that moment on.

That scar from when you first learned how to bike taught you a simple lesson: do everything you can not to fall over. Because of this, you learned how to ride a bike and how to stop if you feel you are getting out of balance.

The person who betrayed you? You can thank them now. They exposed the reality of life; people have different motivations. From then on, you place a higher value on your trust.

Financial scars

However, scars are not just limited to physical or psychological. People also have scars that affect how they handle money.

Ever notice why some people prefer certain types of assets over others? Or avoid some assets like the plague? Or maybe even avoiding investments at all and keeping all their wealth in cash?

These are behaviors caused by financial scars. Some examples are:

  • They got burned in the past betting on a particular stock, so now they only invest in index funds.
  • A recession hit that melted their equity portfolio, and so they believe equities are not worth the risk anymore.
  • They grew up during a depression, so having cash is a matter of survival. Not keeping your money in cash does not make sense to them.

Do these behaviors make them wrong? Of course not! They got burned, you were not. Convincing them otherwise would take significant effort to achieve, especially if you were not on the exact same position as them.

Company or team

Scarring not only happens to individuals, but to groups of people as well.

If you worked at several companies and teams, you will notice that some of their processes and tools are quite different from each other.

As a newcomer to the group, our first reaction is to think, “This doesn’t make sense!“, or “We did this way better at our previous company“.

Sometimes there is some truth to this, like when the company is not aware of better tools or better ways of doing things. In these cases, your feedback, when given at the right time and right context, would benefit both you and the company.

There are instances though when this is not true. The reason why the company or the team does something that “does not make sense” is simply because they had been burned (badly) before and so needed to adjust their policies or rules. The processes that don’t make sense to you are the scars of these problems.

Have an open mind

As scars manifest in other aspects apart from the physical, and also in groups of people, it calls to us to be more understanding and not reactionary when we encounter this phenomenon.

If something does not make sense to you, do not dismiss it. Every person goes through life in separate paths, and each of us has a different experience in life. Other behaviors or ideas are also valid, even if it is the direct opposite of yours. What is real to others may not be real to you, and there is a reason why others believe what they believe.

Walk in the other person’s shoe

It is hard to understand what we don’t experience. While it is impossible to live other people’s lives, we can do the closest thing to it: imagining that we are.

Let’s say you put money in cryptocurrency, expecting large returns because of social media and the buzz surrounding it. But then reality sets in and you end up losing your money. As a result, you vowed never to touch crypto again, now believing that it is nothing but a scam.

Think of that same feeling when you imagine living through the dot-com bust or the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, which demolished your stock portfolio. Now you have a better idea on why some people are so risk averse when it comes to stock investing.

Reserve judgment

Sometimes it is not enough to just walk in another’s shoe. An extended version of this proverb says:

Don’t judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.

Thinking about the situation from the other person’s perspective is not enough. Our understanding is going to be limited unless we are immersed in it. Before we judge, we need to see the bigger picture. There will be some information that you can glean only after being exposed to the situation for an extended period.

Even after knowing the full picture, it is even better if we don’t judge at all!

Going back to a previous example, let’s say you are new to the company, and you don’t agree with some processes or policies. Do you then raise your suggestions on the next team meeting? As the newest person in the team, do you think others will be readily conducive to your ideas? I doubt it. Be part of the group first. Experience what they have been experiencing. With this, you will be able to understand the situation more and contribute for the betterment of the team.

Differences in behaviors and approach make for a dynamic world and results in progress. Accepting that your truth may be different from others not only result in a better understanding of each other, but also benefits you as it opens your mind and grows your perspective on life.

Photo by Alexander Van Steenberge on Unsplash

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