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What Walter* Said: the Awareness of a Muppet

28 November 2011

As a long-time fan of Kermit and his friends, Rachel appreciated nearly everything about the recent theatrical release of The Muppets. In between the singing and dancing and having fun, these fuzzy creatures give us something to think about.

Tags: communication, creativity, diversity, happiness, rachel read

It's been a long time since I've been to a movie and people were (literally) dancing in the aisles. Granted, most of the movie dancers on Saturday were under the age of four, but even the adults in the audience seemed to be having fun. All nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings aside, The Muppets is a terrific movie full of heart-warming moments and some of the lessons for living that you might expect, like:

  • Family is what you make it
  • It takes all types to put on a show
  • A little imagination can save the day
  • Don't forget your 10-year anniversary

In the midst of many thoughts that would feel at home embroidered on pillows and cross-stitch samplers was one lesson that I wasn't expecting. It comes early in the story, just after the newly-introduced Muppet character Walter has overheard bad guy Tex Richman say some dastardly things. As Walter shares his insights with his human brother Gary and Gary's girlfriend Mary (just try saying that five times fast), he pauses and says something akin to, "I'm not sure. Maybe that's just how I heard it in my head."

As we at Allison Partners say when talking about effective communication, what is said and what we hear are often very different things. All of us listen through the lenses of our beliefs and we're predisposed to hear things that affirm our conclusions and overlook things that would contradict our already-formed opinions. At the same time, we're unreasonably confident in the accuracy of our listening and interpretation and, without pausing to clarify, conflict ensues. If we could adopt just a glimmer of Walter's awareness that sometimes there's a gap between the words and our interpretation, there's a chance that many of our most difficult conversations would be a little—or a lot—easier.

In this case, Walter's recollections proved correct…at least according to how this movie viewer heard things. And that's a good thing, because otherwise we would have had a really short movie, without any dramatic tension to inspire the singing and dancing and having fun that entertained me for another 90 minutes. It's all just another example of the important lessons taught by Muppets. Which ones have stuck with you?

* If you saw Walter in the headline and thought, "Yay! Rachel's writing about Walter Isaacson's biopic of Steve Jobs," then never fear. It will be featured on What We're Reading Now in the coming weeks. Stay tuned. 


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