I want to start this by emphasizing the “talent” of being able to effectively manage our differences with others. Although this talent is not as visible as those we typically extoll–music, art, athletics and so on–the outcome of exercising such talent is significant. Regrettable events we’ve seen around the world and continued malicious terrorist-type activity in European countries (and elsewhere) have certainly revealed our inability as nations, communities, and individuals to manage those differences.
As an individual, I cannot solve all of these issues but I can influence the relationships I have with others around me, who don’t share my values, beliefs, or perspective.
Falling Into Habits
Most of us “fall into” habits and routines. We find things we like to do, restaurants we like to go to, people we like to be around, places we enjoy and we tend to stick with those.
The reason we generally enjoy these things is that they are consistent with our natural tendencies.
The people we share time with are generally like us. The places we go are those that are consistent with what we like. The problem with this is that our learning about the world outside of these places, activities, and people stops.
And more often than not, the individuals who are very different from us go to different places, hang around different people, and they like to do different things.
The Same, But Different
If we are going to learn about people who are different from us, we have to be willing to do different things, to go to different places, and hang around those different others.
In one of my classes, I gave students an assignment where they were required to attempt to integrate into a group of people they never imagined frequenting. These groups included everything from the homeless to a different ethnic group to country music lovers to senior citizens.
In virtually every case it was a remarkable learning experience for the students.
They learned that this “different” group did indeed have differences, but, over time, my students understood the members much better and that led to appreciating them and what they liked to do. The students also realized that although there were differences, there were, in fact, a lot of commonalities.
Between seeing that in fact there were things in common and learning to understand and appreciate the differences, a bond was created. In the end, what was an unfamiliar part of the world the students lived in became more familiar, more normal and natural. A bridge had been created simply by being open to a new experience.
In the case I just cited, the outcome originated from an assignment. It was not something the students would have initiated on their own.
We have to initiate it on our own. We have to be proactive if we want to develop this talent.
Being Open To Different Things
So here’s the challenge: Think of an activity you wouldn’t normally engage in–hiking, photography, fishing, etc.–or a group of people you normally wouldn’t hang with–a cultural group in your area from a foreign country, line dancers, church-goers, etc.
In both cases, you will be exposed to people who you have perceived as different from you. You will learn about them and likely come to appreciate them. You will see your differences but understand them more. You will also probably see the things you actually share.
You will, in the end, have built a bridge that wasn’t there before.
And we desperately need more bridges in this world.
Bridges can only be built when we are sincerely open to seeking new experiences. Measuring to what degree we are willing to do so is one of the things the Kozai learning tools measure.
If you would like to know more about these tools, please reach out to the Kozai Group.