Thursday, December 10, 2009

Similar and Different

I keep thinking that people are more the same than they are different. I've always thought that for as long as I can remember. I keep thinking we're a lot alike. And I think that's probably true. We want to feel good, we want to feel important, we want what we want when we want it. We deal with sadness and grief and loss and disappointment and pain and all of that.

So sometimes I get surprised when it occurs to me that we're different. We're quite different. We want different things. What turns us on is different. We like different foods. We behave differently. Our likes and dislikes are totally different. What leads us to where we want to go is really different. And I forget that obvious fact all the time.

I talk to people like they're like me. I treat people the way I'd treat myself. But of course, that's missing the big picture. The big picture is we're alike in that we have differences that make us special. We have ideas we hold dear, we have theories we're working on, we have stories we're writing that are unique to us. We have ways of doing things that make sense to us and don't make sense to the people around us.

What gives me pleasure is to be really curious and listen to the people I'm in front of, not taking for granted our similarities or our differences, finding out what I don't know about the situation or relationship. It's not always clear where we're going to be aligned and where we'll feel some dissonance. Lots of times I'll think I'm talking to someone just like me and it will turn out we're from different planets in an area, and other times I'll resonate with someone I think I have little in common with.

This is all pretty obvious and simple, but as I take a closer look at some of the relationships that are important to me, I notice that I've taken for granted some of the similarities and have disregarded or underestimated some of our differences. I'm reminded to be open and curious and don't think I know before I go into a conversation. And know that my angle will be to think we're alike and to be aware of that bias I have when I'm dealing with people. I'm learning...

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