There is not much of any significance that we can accomplish by ourselves. Whether it is a project at work or wanting to enjoy our time with others in our personal lives, we must successfully connect with others. Of course, there are those with whom we find it easy to connect, such as those who already know us and accept us, and those who are much like us. This includes those who may be of like minds, beliefs, attitudes, and histories as well as those who are like us politically, spiritually, racially, ethnically, and gender- and sexual preference-wise.
Prior to the 1960’s we tended to live and work with folks like ourselves, and connecting with others was relatively easy (not withstanding the occasional argument we might have with co-workers, friends, and family). However, since the 60’s we increasingly find ourselves socially and vocationally with others quite different from ourselves. Out of habit—on automatic—we tend to be uncomfortable with such a load of differences. Accordingly, we tend to try to avoid them, ignore them, convert them, suppress or oppress them, or fight with them.
Of course, it is the latter that is behind the conflicts that populate our lives and world regarding any of the differences already noted. Team conflict from such differences can compromise organizational performance. In the same manner conflict over differences in personality preferences can hamper marital harmony.
Being on automatic in these ways serves neither my ability to grow as a person, to enhance the productivity of the teams where I might encounter those differences, nor my ability to contribute to peace on this planet. Instead, I might consciously choose to make different options:
- I might intentionally and deliberately choose to believe that being uncomfortable is OK. I’ve been uncomfortable before and survived it just fine!
- While being uncomfortable, I might choose to be curious about you and others who are different from me. I might even be interested and appreciative of who you are and what you share with me—none of which requires me to agree with you!
- Finally, I might learn something. I might learn something about you and what you have to say. But, mostly I might learn something about me that might make me a better person.
We can choose to be conscious of our ability to consciously connect across those differences we use to make ourselves uncomfortable. Accordingly, we would empower ourselves to mitigate and alleviate suppression, oppression, and conflict on behalf of learning, harmony, and peace at home, at work, and in the world!