Today, it is hard to watch the news, read a social media post, engage in conversation and not see or hear a label being used.
Calling someone stupid, crazy, ignorant has become the norm. Yet, if we were asked to describe ourselves as tolerant or intolerant, most would say “tolerant.” Tolerant by definition means accepting, and open-minded. But are we able to accept that someone can have an opinion that is different from ours without labeling them? Do we care to understand why someone thinks or sees things differently? Who decides which view is the right one? Can both views be right for each person? Can we get a person to appreciate our view if we don’t care to understand “why” their view?
Let’s examine a picture that we’ve all probably seen. When shown the picture, we are asked “what do you see?”
Some people respond “half full” and others “half empty.” Depending upon their perspective, is the other person stupid? Ignorant? Or do they have different views? What contributes to different views? Our personal culture including our environment, experiences, people around us, knowledge. It’s complicated! We are more diverse (gender, age, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, religion, education, etc.) than ever, which means our perspectives are increasingly more different.
If we are unable to remain open minded, seek to understand, and accept that not everyone is going to share our personal perspectives, then intolerance will ensue, more conflicts will arise, dissatisfaction will increase, productivity will decrease. We will create a next generation of intolerance.
Annually, I am reminded of different perspectives as I make my way through the seasons in Columbus, OH, having grown up in Daytona Beach, Florida. Inevitably, when it is hot and humid- some people around me can’t wait until the weather becomes cooler and “just right.” When for me, the cooler breeze signals discomfort; that “cold and uncomfortable” is ahead. It has taken some time for me to accept the difference and be more welcoming to “winter.”
My experience has taught me two valuable lessons.
First, I have come to realize that rarely can we find “all” or “everyone” with the exact same view. There are some people who grew up with me in Florida who don’t like “hot and humid” just as I can find some people in Columbus who would love to join me in Florida for the winter. Second, it takes time to appreciate and accept a view that is different. Sometimes that time period can be relatively short while other times long. For me, twenty-two years later, and I still have to work on my “welcoming” winter spirit.
Judging someone by our standards and then labeling them can sometimes be harmful. How would you feel if you were called stupid, crazy, and irrational? How would you react? Increasingly, more labeling is becoming the reaction. Recently, I watched a friend handle being labeled “ignorant” on her facebook page in a positive, and loving manner. Rather than resorting to name calling, love and kindness was shown as she courageously maintained her different view. Her actions inspired me to write this blog. I hope more of us will decide to resist responding to different opinions with an outburst of more labels. Let’s seek to understand so that we can create a world that values and embraces differences. A world where we truly act in a way that is tolerant.