The Bridge to Better Understanding
The further we go on this trek of Compassionate Diversity®, the more we realize that there’s not just one way of seeing the world. In fact, there are about 7 billion ways of seeing the world.
In order to understand others better, we have to do a better job at understanding ourselves, first. Self-reflection and self-awareness are important skills. But how do we become more aware?
The bridge to understanding ourselves and others is built by our emotions.
Here’s an example: Let’s start with the value of respect. Everyone wants to be respected, right?
Suppose I’m talking to someone, and they’re making eye contact with me. To me, that indicates the person is listening to me. I assume that person is respecting me.
But if we believe eye contact is respectful behavior, what do we do when someone doesn’t make eye contact with us?
Well, we may jump to the conclusion that the person is not listening to me, and that he is being disrespectful.
But, we all know that there are cultures where no eye contact may mean “respect.”
So, how do we slow down our thinking so that we’re not jumping to conclusions? How do we discover which situation we’re in?
It’s our emotions.
Our emotions play a key part in recognizing when we’ve bumped up against a belief.
- No matter what we’re feeling, there’s a belief linked to it.
- Whether we’re happy or sad, content or angry, our feelings lead us to our beliefs.
- If we’re happy, we’re happy because things are going well – according to our beliefs.
- If we’re sad, it’s because things aren’t going along according to our beliefs.
It's really that simple.
Pay attention to your emotional reaction in situations. It’s easy to accept unimportant information if you have a positive reaction and discount very important information if you have a negative emotional reaction.
Instead, we need to learn to use our emotional reaction to figure out what belief we think is being supported or challenged. From there, we can figure out what we need to do to resolve the situation we’re in.
Let’s take a quick look at our eye contact example again.
If we believe eye contact shows respect, then when someone makes eye contact with us, we tend to feel very calm, perhaps even slightly pleased. This connects us to the belief that “the person is listening to me,” and the value that “they respect me.”
If my belief is that “eye contact shows respect because it means you are listening to me,” and you don’t make eye contact, then I may feel frustrated or angry, maybe even a bit indignant. These feelings bump up against the belief that “eye contact shows that you are listening to me,” and I assume that you are not listening to me, and therefore, being disrespectful.
Same value, different emotions because the behavior was different.
Note that the feelings are not tied to the value - we’ve already agreed that everyone wants to be respected - but rather to the belief that the particular behavior connected to.
Understanding this basic model is foundational work for Compassionate Diversity®. Instead of getting mad that certain behaviors went against our beliefs, we want to start to get curious. Ask yourself:
- Why am I feeling what I’m feeling in this situation?
- What does this behavior mean to me?
- What might it mean to the other person?
- What value is the other person trying to express?
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© 2017, Susan McCuistion