In the midst of a conversation last week, the person I was sharing perspectives with changed the course of the conversation by asking me about my political/social ideology. Even though I did proceed to share my perspectives and values, I found the question frustrating and disappointing. This happens far too often in our society!!
I am a person not simply or easily labeled by my ideologies or beliefs. No one is!
Like everyone else, I have a unique set of experiences, perspectives, gifts, talents, beliefs, commitments, hopes, dreams, and aspirations!
It is way too easy to place someone into a bucket or clump them into a predefined group than to actually spend time getting to know, understand, respect, and empathize with their perspectives and life story. It is much simpler to discover how to categorize or define them — Christian, Muslim, Jew, Black, White, Hispanic, Affluent, Poor, Liberal or Conservative — so we can move on if and when their world view doesn’t comply or align with ours.
There is so much to be learned from another person’s perspective, story, reality, and beliefs. Relying on previous stereotypical experiences to dismiss or ignore the experience, insights, and uniqueness of another individual breeds ignorance and arrogance, not love and understanding.
When interacting with another person, take this approach:
- Discover what you have in common with them. Remember that every one you engage has at least one thing in common with you.
- Learn from their story. Like you, everyone has a unique story — hear it, learn from it, and appreciate it.
- Seek to understand before you are understood. Leave your judgments, criticisms, and predispositions out of the conversation. Make a commitment to understand, inquire, and challenge not dismiss, criticize, or stereotype. You can create much from listening, learning, and understanding.
- Be grateful. Every person that comes into your life is a gift, even those that can easily frustrate you. They are in your life for a reason — share your love, offer your gifts, and receive from them what they have to offer. You will be enriched by the interaction.
The challenges we face in our world today are monumental. There are no clear cut, easy answers. The path to these solutions require human interaction, engagement, and understanding. We each have an opportunity to make a difference. One of the critical steps to this process is to avoid labeling others, judging them, or cutting off the conversation because of what we believe we know about them. Remember, each and every one of us is unique, special, and talented. Discover and share that gift.