Living in the modern world requires interaction with others unless one chooses to be a hermit. In most instances, people communicate in a harmonious and cooperative manner and respect other people’s opinions. However, there are times when individual or group differences cause people to openly disagree. This everyday situation escalates and becomes contentious when individuals are unable or unwilling to accept a different perspective.
In some instances, it simply is not possible to step into another person’s shoes. For example, a person who has always had a well paying job with a steady income will not be able to fully appreciate what it is like to be homeless and unemployed. The employed worker may exhibit compassion for the less fortunate individual, but there is no way that they can see the world through the eyes of someone living below the poverty level. They can only imagine the day-to-day concerns.
The indigent person will likewise have difficulty understanding the mindset of people who do not share her daily struggles. She will not be able to identify with such a radically different lifestyle. Even though they both share a gap in understanding, they will hopefully attempt to bridge the schism via dialogue.
A willingness to recognize another person’s background goes a long way to finding common ground and lessening combative behavior. This understanding will limit controversy and foster feelings of compassion and empathy. Nevertheless, these actions will fall short of allowing someone to fully appreciate another person’s predicament. Imagining a particular scenario will never equal actual experience. It will only open the door to appreciating another person’s perspective.
This is vey different from a situation where individuals are unwilling to compromise or refuse to let go of their biases. In those instances, people are not open to other points of view. Their perspective is always right.
Everyday examples of this type of behavior can be observed with some political and radical groups. Staunch Republicans and Democrats are notorious for stating that their platforms are the ideal. They intentionally cause controversy by refusing to see the merits of the opposing party. More moderate members of each party are willing to compromise by being receptive to seeing another point of view.
Similarly, religious fanatics view the world with only one set of glasses. Unless you adhere to their ways, you are destined to a lesser existence or possibly death.
On a daily basis, people need to communicate with others on various levels. In most situations, it is possible to see another’s perspective due to shared experiences or beliefs. Theses commonalities provide avenues to understanding and increase the likelihood that there will not be any conflict.
Disagreements are a part of life. Most children learn at an early age how to respect different viewpoints and mature into adulthood accepting diversity. A small group of people, however, are unable or unwilling to step away from their tight hold on their worldview. Their background and/or experience have shaped their outlook and may prevent them from fully acknowledging an unfamiliar or different viewpoint. More serious impediments arise when these people deliberately refuse to look beyond their narrow view of the world. Anyone not agreeing with them is totally discounted. Their viewpoints are held tightly in their fists. It is impossible to pry their fingers open.
While it may be more challenging to work with extreme personalities, maintaining a flexible perspective will make it easier to deal with the rest of the world. The key is to remain a patient and active listener. Too often, people react before they hear the whole story. If something is not clear, ask questions. Focus on the response. Take time to absorb what is being said before a word is uttered. The act of listening will provide a better understanding of the other person’s perspective.
This blog was written in response to the NaBloPoMo prompt for Tuesday, February4, 2013.
Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.