A few days ago I wrote about holding a space open for the “other”. You might want to start there before reading this post.
I’m writing from the perspective of different cultures getting along together and different faiths respecting each other but these principles are also useful in knowing and understanding our children (teenagers for example), divorced spouses, teachers, employers….really anyone it’s difficult to understand and come to a middle ground with.
If we don’t hold the space open, reserve judgment and keep learning new things about the ‘other’ we will get it wrong. We will miss the truth because we’ve already decided what the truth is (damn the facts). I see this all the time here. People decide, based on their experiences with a certain group of people, that they are liars, inept, incompetent, arrogant, careless, or any number of other things. Once they have put them in that category they are incapable of seeing much more. It might feel good to feel like you have some things figured out, but it will be a part truth.
When we first moved here to Qatar, it was 45 degrees Celsius (118 Fahrenheit). Every room has air conditioning so it wasn’t a big hardship. Our villa hadn’t been lived in for a year so the a/c was a little temperamental and kept freezing up. Maintenance was called in several times. They repeatedly told me not to set the a/c lower than 18 degrees. I assured them that I never did. I set it between 22-25. Yet every time they came in they tried to talk me into not turning it under 18. They eventually taped a note under the control to remind me. They said, “We know you Canadians like it cold”. I could not convince them that I did not move to this beautifully hot country to freeze in the air conditioning. It didn’t do any good.
Several weeks later I met another Canadian woman in our compound. She complained about her air conditioning freezing up and the repeated repairs being done and about maintenance telling her not to put it below 18. She said “I don’t care what they say, I like my a/c set at 15 degrees, they can just deal with it.”
Ahhhh…and henceforth, they know us Canadians and, they know we like it cold. It makes sense of course because we also come from the land of permanent snow and we live in igloos.
Whoever you’re trying to come to an understanding with/of, I implore you, resist the temptation to peg them. Keep learning, keep listening. Expect your perceptions to change. Hold your understandings lightly. Walk humbly. Be kind.