Pedestrians and non-drivers, will often mistakenly glance at a car’s headlights as a judge of the driver’s intention, instead of looking at the face of the driver.
I’ve done this a few times. Half-consciously I wheel my head down to see a front bumper hurtling towards me, and assume that the car will stop, when in actuality the driver is looking another way and is completely ignorant of my presence.
It’s been demonstrated through brain scans that similar areas of the brain light up when we look at faces as when we look at headlights. It’s understandable that we would accidentally take the ‘face’ of a car to be what we should look at when deciding to cross a street.
However, while staring into the headlights of a car, someone walking down the street will think the car has ‘seen’ them, when the driver is actually distracted and looking the other way. Experienced pedestrians and drivers always know to look at the face that matters, not the face that is most immediate.
Perhaps we can apply this idea to personal conflict.
During arguments, there are very prominent, surface level elements: the words a person is saying, their accusasions, debasements, threats. There are also deeply veiled, and more crucial elements: their emotional state, intentions. Even their pain. A persons’ anger may be ‘driving’ straight towards you in the form of an outburst, or a snide remark. Howerver, that person may be ‘looking’ in an entirely different direction. A past memory, something reminiscent of another conversation, or even what happened to them that morning. They may even be asleep at the wheel.
The tragic difficulty here is that, with people, there are only one set of eyes. We must be even more skilled to look beyond the headlights.