The world is going to hell in a handbasket. The world is becoming safer, more connected and interdependent. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, it seems the arguments lately have become very rancorous and bitter. As I talked to a client about it recently, we wondered, why do people find it so hard to accept difference? There’s no simple answer, but I think that we can all look for ways to build bridges. Because difference doesn’t only occur at the political level, but it happens in our teams, in our meetings, and in our homes. Learning how to bridge difference could have a huge impact on our ability to work and live well together.
I pride myself on being open-minded, but often when I hear a differing opinion, I do one of two things: I start building my rebuttal (and miss most of the rest of the opinion), or I just tune out, assuming I know where this is leading. In the interest of being more open to difference, I will make two changes:
• I will actively seek out opinions that are different from my own and genuinely try to understand the concerns that drive those opinions. At work, we all want the best for the customer, so if we take the time to understand where each is coming from, we’re sure to find some common ground. That’s a starting place for mutual respect and acceptance.
• I will look inside. I love to be right! But every time I make myself “right,” I’m making someone else “wrong” (so by extension, if they are “right,” then I must be “wrong,” and that can’t be!). A better approach is to look at a third possibility: we can both be right. It takes more effort to look at life from another’s perspective, but the payoff is significant: greater harmony, collaboration and ultimately performance.
Looking for opinions that reinforce my own beliefs and making myself right are just ways that I act my thinking into reality (what I think is what I see). Let’s see if we can break down walls to find a way to greater understanding and peace. It starts with us. Will you join me?