There’s a lot of unnecessary duality in our societies: Muslims vs Christians, Men vs Women, Rich vs Poor, Dog people vs Cat lovers… just to give a few examples. This “Us vs Them” attitude is everywhere, as if it was ingrained in our very psyche. Perhaps it is.
However, I’ve noticed it’s much more fruitful to set the differences aside for a moment and try to seek a common ground. Once you adopt this new habit you’ll be surprised how you can find something you share with nearly anyone.
We human beings are masters of naming and categorizing things. And somehow this tendency is commonly applied to people as well. “So, you’re a farmer,” someone approached me in Costa Rica once. Never thought I was.
In this person’s eyes the guy tilling land, doing weeding and fixing the aquaponics system could by no means be a leadership trainer, a strategic consultant, an entrepreneur or a writer. So, for him, I was a farmer.
Before jumping into conclusions about people, it pays off to ask probing questions and truly listen. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” Stephen Covey suggested. This approach takes some patience. Yet, it can make you see the other person in an entirely new light.
We are all essentially the same. People everywhere — regardless of their background or weight of their wallet — have somewhat similar hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, doubts and disbeliefs.
Second, perhaps more importantly, we are spiritually the same. (Okay, fine, take this with a grain of salt… or with some LSD!) The apparent division between us is there so we could observe the experience of humanity from several angles — to ensure the richness and variety of data that we feed into the collective consciousness.
From this standpoint it’s idiotic to harm another human being, because you’re just hurting yourself. I strongly feel that I cannot be free before everyone else is. Very Buddhist of me, I know.
Having said all that, one part of getting along with people is choosing your company wisely. There are people who, for one reason or another, just get on your nerves. It’s okay to not spend time with them.
The same goes for these random know-it-all characters who you stumble upon in the wonderful world of interweb. Knowing when to address their critique, and when to virtually walk away, is a skill that can save you both a lot of time and gray hair.
Yes, these people are also my brothers and sisters, but if they are not on the same wavelength, it’s pointless to even try engage in meaningful conversation.
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