Leaving food on your plate

A researcher talked about the moment he fell in love with social psychology. He was preparing for a trip to southeast Asia and there was a brief seminar on culture. He was told that in China it’s polite to leave some food on your plate because it shows that you got enough. On the other hand, he heard that it’s rude to leave food on your plate in Indonesia because it shows you didn’t like it.

The same event has two drastically different interpretations depending on the culture.

The point here isn’t the absolute truth of either cultural message. It’s about the power of interpretation.

When it comes to human interaction, every action does not have an equal and opposite reaction. Reactions are varied based on culture, framing, tone, debriefing, and many other factors.

Next time you’re looking only at the action, consider the surrounding factors. Truth is rarely as simple as it seems.