Value the differences

I spend a fair amount of my time reminding myself and those around me that we are all pretty similar. Despite the differences in our skin color, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, many of us have similar motivations - to have our basic needs met, to keep ourselves and those around us safe, to be valued, to experience joy, and so on.

But I've also spent a lot of time thinking about how different we are and trying to appreciate that.

A friend's son graduates high school this week. She mentioned how nervous he was and how he just wanted to be done with it. "Nervous? Is he giving a speech or something?" She said no, and went on to explain he's a kid who does anything he can not to draw attention to himself and he was feeling anxious about the whole situation - the attire, the cap and gown, walking all the way up to the stage and across the stage, shaking hands, getting his diploma. Huh. Nervousness wasn't my experience when I graduated, and considering my kids' personalities, I doubt it will be theirs either. But it totally makes sense that it would be the experience of many others. (My perspective was further changed when I learned his graduating class has over 1000 students in it! That's twice the size of my college graduating class. So his experience has been different than mine in a lot of ways.)

We all have our own perspectives on every situation, based not only on our genetic makeup but also our past experiences. And the more we remember that there are multiple ways to view the same situation, the less likely we are to judge and the more likely we are to try to understand each other's perspective.

I had an employee who was really struggling with some of the computer work the job required. What came as second nature to her peers felt foreign to her. A few co-workers were having a difficult time understanding this, so I had them consider how comfortable some of them (and this employee) were in the kitchen and how I feel totally out of my element there. Sure, I can follow a recipe, but I don't enjoy it. I don't experiment. I don't know the language. Cooking and baking brings so many people joy. But not me. I'd rather create a complicated spreadsheet or deliver a lengthy speech (two tasks lots of people don't enjoy that much) than make a simple recipe. My co-workers seemed to have more compassion for the employee when they considered this perspective.

Acknowledging differing gifts and perspectives and personality types has been helpful throughout my career. I've learned to approach people the way they want to be approached, not the way I want to approach them. Understanding what's important to clients and to employees has helped me communicate better. It takes a lot of work and can be really frustrating ("Why can't she just see it my way?" "Why doesn't he just do it this way?") but considering multiple perspectives can also widen my viewpoint and make almost everything I do better.

Value the differences.

Photo by Good Free Photos on Unsplash

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