This Together We Thrive blog post was written by Lebanon-based Life and Leadership Coach, Beth Conger, CPC, ELI-MP
We exist in a world of 7.8 billion people, living in all corners of the globe, experiencing life in infinitely different ways. Given this, how could we possibly expect people to act, behave and operate just like we do? The short answer is, we can’t. But the truth is, we do.
We expect people to live to our standards, follow our rules, act in accordance with our assumption of societal norms. But what we fail to consider, is that what we think is right, they may think is wrong. What we think makes us superior may not be real. What we think they should do, literally makes no sense to them.
So, our default is to write them off, get angry at them, think less of them, disregard them. But when we do that, we miss out on a very real (and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to make a meaningful connection, a new friend, learn something new, live more peacefully and harmoniously.
Here are just some of the very real, and very logical barriers to acceptance we all face.
- Unrealistic expectations. We are programmed (from an early age and through reinforcement of society) to believe things need to work a certain way. Our way. Ask yourself, why?
- Fear of giving up control. If we aren’t in charge, then what?!? But what we don’t realize is that when we can “go with the flow,” we gain control of what’s most important – ourselves! Our thoughts, feelings and actions that put us in the driver’s seat of life. How does this resonate?
- Negative narratives from the past. The stories we were told, the experiences we have had have all shaped our perceptions of right and wrong, what should and shouldn’t happen, what we should expect from others. What’s a negative narrative getting in your way?
True harmony comes from our ability to appreciate differences, learn from each other, broaden our world view and perhaps even enjoy the ride a bit more. And this boils down to acceptance – of ourselves and others. Practicing acceptance means complete non-judgement. So instead of looking at something as good/bad, right/wrong, it just IS.
A great way to practice acceptance of yourself and others is by leading with empathy.
When we lead with empathy, we open up a world of possibility. Humility and curiosity are 100 percent a part of living empathetically. Here are some other ways you can practice empathetic living.
- Listen more than you speak, give good eye contact, focus on what they’re saying and repeat back what you heard so they feel seen and understood.
- Share how you’d feel if you were them. Obviously, you aren’t them, but comments, like “wow that must have taken courage,” or “I don’t know what I would have done in your shoes” will go a long way to bridging any apparent divide.
- Be vulnerable. Ask for help in understanding what they are saying, using a kind and curious tone free of judgement. This can be one of the most difficult, yet most powerful ways to lead with empathy.
- Try a new experience first-hand to see what someone else’s life may be like. Go to their church, walk in their neighborhood, enjoy their native cuisine. There are a number of ways to literally walk in their shoes for a moment.
It all begins with acceptance. Acceptance is the ability to see that everyone has the right to be their own unique person – with their own style, beliefs, feelings - without trying to change them. Join my June workshop, Kaleidoscope of Acceptance to learn more about some of the tips in this article and how to accept yourself, so you can more freely accept others.