It is human nature to judge, but it is what you do next that counts.
You may think that is an interesting statement. Does it hold truth? Is it truly human nature to judge others? I think so.
This was a thought that I had somewhere along the way while going through diversity training and considering what diversity means to me. It really is quite simple for me – ever since I started kindergarten, I have gone to schools with diverse populations. My high school was just over 50% white. My best friend in high school was an African-American man. Diversity just is.
When I got to college: News flash Barrett – not everyone comes from a place where they have experienced diverse people. Wow, well that was a little different. So I started to think about diversity (with plenty of help from various programs and advisors). What does diversity mean? How does it affect our interactions?
Diversity is usually thought of in terms of race or ethnicity – because race and ethnicity are tangible. What color is your skin? What country do you come from? But it is so much more than that. Diversity comes from different backgrounds and life experiences. And it is crucial to our survival.
Yes, I said that diversity is crucial to our survival. Friends who come from different backgrounds are crucial to our learning. They help us see perspectives that we may never have considered on our own. So, if diversity is crucial to our survival, then how do we deal with our natural instinct to gravitate towards people that are similar to us? Insert first line of blog here.
Humans make judgements about other humans and then gravitate towards those that we perceive as least threatening to our way of life – those that we have the most in common with – especially in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations. The challenge comes after we make that judgement of: “What is that person wearing?” or “How in the world did that guy end up HERE?” or “I have no idea what country that person is from.” You now have a choice: will you accept your judgement as a good enough reason to avoid that person? Or will you challenge yourself to give that person a chance? Everyone has a story – and each of us can find SOMETHING in common with another individual.
So, how much could you gain from a diverse perspective? I would argue that the possibilities are endless. I would also challenge you to challenge yourself. Judgements are natural, they are not final. We all have a choice. What’s the worst that could happen?
(PS: to be fair, this has been one of the most challenging things for me to practice. It’s not easy to take myself out of my comfort zone to connect with someone who I initially feel I have nothing in common with. But when I have made the effort, I have truly been amazed at the people I have met and the life stories I have heard. Next time you see me, and you think I could be doing more of this – tap me on the shoulder and challenge me.)
A great Ted Talk that highlights a wonderful story of diversity in the first ten minutes: http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_dunlap_talks_about_a_passionate_life.html