Last year, a controversy of the greatest importance came out of social media: what are the colors of this dress? People debated whether it was blue and black or gold and white. The odd lighting and quality of the picture made it look quite different from one person to another.
Recently, a new photo reengaged the old debate. This Adidas jacket, is it black and brown? Blue and white? Green and brown?
What these arguments tell us is something inherent in the ways we communicate with each other: perspective is important! For those who are color blind, their sense of what color is different, but not wrong from someone else’s. For all of us, color, like other sensations, is a subjective experience.
While color exists due to the different amounts of reflectivity and absorption of light in objects, how we perceive and understand that color isn’t objective. According to color vision scientist (yes that is a thing) Joseph Carrol, “I think we can say for certain that people don’t see the same colors.”
So why does this matter in writing and tutoring? Well, we can become more empathetic to other’s perspectives by understanding how subjective and personal writing can be, just like color perception. The reactions to a piece of writing can vary by the reader’s background, education, experience, identity, and other factors. In other words, the audience isn’t a monolith! Similarly, if someone is writing fiction, understanding the perspective of each character will create more distinct voices within the fiction.
Being mindful of different perspectives not only improves how we communicate with each other, but it can build better solutions. Unlike the people shouting at each other on the internet over the color of a dress or jacket, tutors should let different perspective work together in an appointment. This is a key aspect of agenda building: a tutor and a writer may take different things away from what needs to be done in appointment, but the collaboration between these perspectives makes a meaningful appointment.
So go forward and be confident in how your perspectives adds to our meaning of the world! And, what color is the dress for you?