Monday, January 9, 2012
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
A fascinating exploration of the invisible forces that influence your life - and how understanding them can improve everything you do.
The world around you is shaping your innermost instincts and your most private of preferences, and you don't even realize it. Every day we overlook the enormous power of context in our lives. That's a mistake, says Sam Sommers in Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World. In this provocative and surprising book, Sommers reveals the powerful influence that context has in our lives and uses these insights to rethink how we see the world, making us more effective at work, at home, and with others.
To kick off 2012 I thought I would start off with something in the nonfiction genre, so I picked up Sam Sommers' Situation Matters. Its a self-help type of book that has you looking at the bigger picture - looking at a situation as a whole and not just in the context of how it relates to only you. Basically, we need to expand our awareness, because the context of situations do matter and the way we react to them does in fact influence and impact the ways in which we conduct our daily lives. Pretty interesting stuff, eh? Actually, it was.
Sommers writes about this topic in such an open and engaging manner that you can't help but soon become immersed in all things situational. From the beginning, Sommers has you relating to him and a situation he found himself in at the airport. The plane was delayed and he wanted a voucher for a hotel room for him and his wife, since the delay was caused by the airline. Of course, waiting in line at the airline's counter, he notices that everyone is complaining and yelling at the airline representative and as a result no one is getting anything - no vouchers! So, instead of heading to the counter and giving the rep a piece of his mind, he chats with the rep about the situation and makes sure to mention that he knows there must be something that she can do to help, even though he understands it is not the airline's policy to do anything. In a final bid to really relate to the woman, Sommers confides that his wife is two months pregnant and that the airline rep is the second person to find out the news - the first being the doctor. This secret seals the deal and soon enough, Sommers and his wife are resting at a hotel that very night. So, one can infer from this situation that it always pays to be nice and that sharing confidences can really bond strangers (to an extent).
Throughout the book, Sommers mentions a variety of scenarios that really test people's limits by gauging how far they will or will not go to help out a stranger to how quickly people judge one another if and when their actions are not to our liking. He uses pop culture references as another means of illustrating his point that raising out awareness is the key to really figuring out how to handle the various situations that life throws our way. Instead of rushing through life, we need to stop and pay attention - you know, smell the roses. Sommers is basically saying that we need to be more mindful of our actions and responses, because they are representative of who we are and can determine how we see others and how they see us. We need to be more aware.
Suffice it to say, reading this book has definitely made me more conscious of how I react to situations. In fact, I recognize now how badly I tend to overreact, which does not help me in any way. Plus, I have this horrible habit of interrupting, which again, does not do me any favors. Of course, now that I'm aware of these shortcomings, its all I see. Talk about tunnel vision. Anyhow, at least I'm working on breaking out of those bad habits. I'm also working on paying closer attention to situations, so that I can learn how to handle myself in a manner that will not only benefit me, but everyone involved. I realize that context really does matter - how you read someone or something definitely influences your reaction and the end result. Instead of getting upset over something that I have no control over, I need to really take stock of what matters and focus on the positive. I know that these ideas that Sommers discusses are ones we already know on some level, but just the same, I feel as if I am learning them all over again. Sometimes it helps to remind yourself of what you already know.
Anyhow, I just want to say this has been one fascinating read - definitely a great way to kick off 2012! I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone - you will not be disappointed!