An Appreciation for Differences

 

7-31-2011 6-45-11 AM

There’s been a common theme developing this week throughout my world that has compelled me to speak up.  I see it on television every night.  I read about it on blogs, websites, and news publications.  I see it in action all day long.  People in struggle because of differences.  Struggling back and forth.  Dissention leading to resenting.  One person feels equally strong about their perspective as some else does.  But here’s the little secret to this notion that most people don’t take the time to realize:  it’s actually OK.

We’ve evolved into a very diverse and at times very unaccepting society.  We all share different points of view and different perspectives, but somewhere along the line things went very wrong.  In our current climate, when we disagree with someone, there exists this entitlement encapsulated by a notion that it is a morale obligation to change that person to align with our own line of thinking.  Everyone want to jump on their soapbox and make sure we save all of those “unbelievers” from themselves.  Where did we go so wrong?

The truth in the simplest way is we are never going to belong to a utopian society where every person believes the same, acts the same, lives the same, and operates the same.  We are individuals with choices.  We have the right to choose what we believe.  We also have the inherent right to do things in a manner that we ourselves deem fitting.  We have certain “real” restrictions but for the most part we are allowed the privilege to be who we want to be.

So where are the boundaries to this idea?  I believe that there is a human element we can apply to this concept.  In the simplest way, I can share any value or opinion that I wish as long as it does not create harm to another human being’s livelihood.  Pretty easy, huh?  Notice I make a clear distinction of “harm”.  That doesn’t mean disagreement.  It doesn’t even mean the prevention of letting them achieve something that they want to do.  Don’t parents sometimes have to prevent children from doing things they want to do in order to protect them?  It means that we shouldn’t impose our wills on others without a positive outcome in mind.

This ideal transcends every aspect of our lives.  At home, I am allowed to do things the way I like and my wife is allowed to do the things she wishes.  Those ideas may align and other times may not, but what happens when they don’t?  Well, we could argue ferociously.  Probably not the best way to help keep your home a sanctuary for resting after a busy day.  We could also choose to accept each other as we are and accept that at times we do things in a different manner and learn how to work within that landscape in a cohesive manner.  This doesn’t mean we will always agree on everything.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  It just means we need to practice how to arrive at some level of cooperation, either through cooperation or compromise.

The same idea shows up in our careers too.  One of the first rules of management we learn is that we need to learn to manage workloads and strategies, not personalities and emotions.  One of the great things about managing a team is learning to harness individuality and the substance of people to create a collective of creativity and ideas.  It’s good for everyone to be on the same page, but we don’t necessarily need to be reading the same paragraph.  We all bring different strengths to the table.  Some of us are high level creative thinkers, where others might be more technical in nature.  Some of us might be good at multi-tasking, where others need to focus on one task at a time.  Learning to let people operate in their zones of confidence brings out the best in everyone.

An important thing for us all to remember when interacting with people is an idea that understanding and trust add to each other’s emotional bank accounts.  Forcing change or demanding conformity just because we do not do things in the same way lead to alienation and disconnection.  Consider this – if we demand that everyone operate in the same way and do lot allow them freedoms to be themselves, how much productivity can we expect, or how high do we expect those people to perceive their quality of life?  Learning to bring the best out in people is an art and a craft unto itself, but the dangerous assumption that our idea is the only idea that counts likewise generates animosity.  In dealing with the various people and roles in life, seek to find ways to accomplish goals more cooperatively by gaining an appreciation for who and what people really are.

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~ by bfmooz on July 31, 2011.

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