One of the benefits of a diverse society like ours is the influx of ideas, traditions, and different points-of-view that result from cultural differences. Openness to learning about others’ values, beliefs and ideas help us clarify our own thinking and often result in more effective solutions. Of course, what’s different can make us uncomfortable and even inspire fear. Personally I believe this is why so much of the rhetoric we’re exposed to is so negative.
In the past there was an assumption that regardless of your background, you loved this country and believed in its basic tenets. We had a common belief system that allowed us to connect with our neighbors regardless of differences. As we identify more with our cultural backgrounds and create labels for each other whether they’re based on economics, political beliefs, media habits, or personal attributes, we emphasize our differences at the expense of our commonalities. I believe this directly contributes to corporate suffering because it affects our ability to fully understand and build rapport with each other. Ultimately this impacts the strength of our thinking and solutions not to mention our ability to have compassion for each other as fellow human beings.
Shared experiences are one path to creating understanding. Think of how connected and strong the country felt immediately after 9-11. That horrific experience showed that we did still share quite a few values; we’d just been focused more on our differences.
Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t need a tragedy to remind us that we have much in common? What if we consistently looked for ways to understand each others’ perspective and build on shared experiences—whether work-related or just sharing our opinion regarding the recent Super Bowl—so that our first impulse was to listen thoughtfully to each other and treat each other with respect? I wonder what difference that would make in all aspects of our lives.